Meaningful Use Dropout Rate at a Staggering 17%

Here’s an alarming fact: the meaningful use dropout rate is already 17%.

A recently published assessment of the government’s April EHR attestation data revealed that 17% of the providers who earned an $18,000 EHR incentive in 2011 did not earn the $12,000 second incentive in 2012. Although the analysis was performed by the venerable Wells Fargo, my immediate response was, “That’s impossible! They must have miscalculated the data.”

Meaningful Use Dropout Rate at a Staggering 17%So I crunched the numbers for myself, and to my astonishment, the conclusion is absolutely correct. A staggering 17% of the providers who succeeded at demonstrating meaningful use for 90 days were unable to sustain that performance for a full year—the second required reporting period—despite the fact that the program’s requirements remained exactly the same and the providers already had the necessary workflows in place to support those requirements. What makes this fact even more troubling is that the 2011 attesters were typically the early EHR adopters and therefore most experienced in the use of the technology.

A 17% loss rate in any business is wholly unacceptable, and this failure does not portend well for the future of the EHR Incentive Program. If $12,000 proved to be insufficient motivation for physicians with meaningful use experience to meet the relatively low requirements of Stage 1 on an ongoing basis, it would be foolish to expect physicians to muster the wherewithal to meet the increasingly demanding requirements of Stage 2. The incentive for a year’s performance at that point will be a mere $4,000.

Related: Physicians Spooked by Failure Stories-EHR Adoption Suffers

Compounding this finding is the fact that 14% of physicians who attested to Stage 1 have already stated that they have no intention of attesting to Stage 2, according to another recent survey. And we can be sure that this number will rise as physicians begin to familiarize themselves with the labyrinthine requirements. If physicians are not motivated by the remaining incentives, it’s equally clear that the imposition of penalties for noncompliance will yield no better results. There is already a groundswell of objections to the penalties, including a bill introduced in the House seeking numerous exemptions, letters from AMA and AHA, etc.

Related: Stage 2 Meaningful Use is a Game Changer for Specialists

So, is this the beginning of the end of meaningful use? What is keeping physicians from continuing to participate in the program? Are they bailing or failing? In either case, it is just too complicated—physicians are demonstrating that they are not willing to divert their attention from treating patients to consistently devoting the time necessary to keep track of the myriad measures on which they must successfully report. Instead of making meaningful use increasingly complex, we need to simplify it—focus on interoperability and leave the physicians and their clinical staffs to practice medicine. If we do not, the entire program will go down the drain. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater!

Evan Steele is the CEO of EHR company SRSsoft and EMR Straight Talk where he writes about his observations and opinions on the countless complexities that are challenging everyone in the health care industry where this was first posted.

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  • kenfro

    Are the EHR consultants fleecing the physicians?

  • anonNJ

    MU has it backwards. It starts out requiring doctors to enter data, when it would have been so much more useful for the data to be populated for them. If physicians’ offices could send records to one another, we could avoid having to ask patients to answer the same questions over and over again. Imagine opening your EMR, confirming a patient’s record transfer, and then seeing all of the fields populate. I don’t think anyone would mind updating a collaborative record like that but instead doctors are asked to recreate charts from scratch due to incompatibilities with other offices’ EMRs and liability concerns. MU should have been designed to eliminate barriers to data sharing first and then worried about capturing missing data later.

    Another issue is that there isn’t enough time in between stages. Our vendor is MU 2 certified but our practice will probably not be able to participate in stage 2 due to the long waiting list for the required upgrades and interfaces. Even if we could get the upgrades done in time, there would be no way to complete staff training without rushing through it which doesn’t help the situation.