Monday, September 10, 2012

Novocain Immunity and Meaningful Use: How prepared are patients and practitioners for 2014?

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Can Meaningful Use eliminate the pain red tape causes?
If you talk to anyone in the medical community and say the words 'meaningful use,' chances are any clinician or physician will understand what you mean. What about patients? This is probably going to be the biggest change in the way doctors and patients interact on every level yet, if one were to coin the phrase 'meaningful use' in general public; the response would likely be something akin to a deer caught in the headlights.

Simply put, Meaningful Use is very important yet, no one knows about it.

The fact is that most patients have no idea that the days of going to this specialist and signing a release of these records to that other specialist and back on to your general practitioner are numbered. They have no idea that secure, instant messaging with your doctor, all of your doctors for that matter, is right around the corner. Meaningful Use Stage 2 goes into full effect in 2014.

I have a feeling some practitioners and HCO's would like to keep it that way. Because Meaningful Use is more patient focused and keeping them satisfied as a consumer is more important; practitioners without a good 'bedside manner' will have to develop one quickly.

You see, Meaningful Use completely revamps the way doctors and patients will communicate. On many levels, it makes physicians more accountable for getting the whole story and getting it right the first or second time. It all but eliminates the 'take two aspirin' syndrome when a patient comes in and hands over health records that clinically spell out what they often cannot verbalize. It allows for instant communication and eliminates the need for countless (and billable) follow up visits due to incomplete paperwork.

In other words, Meaningful Use will make healthcare more efficient for everybody, but only if doctors and HCO's are on board.

So where does Novocain immunity fit into all of this?

Upon joining Talascend, I relocated to Maryland: New doctors, new dentists, new everything. Shortly after moving and during a routine checkup, I found I needed a filling. There's only one small problem: I am immune to Novocain in regular, recommended doses. My old dentist knew how to keep my mouth numb. My new dentist didn't believe me. Three shots later and only about a 15 minute window to work with, she was a believer. The third shot wore off in the last 5 minutes and they couldn't give me more, so I had to deal with the pain while we were wrapping up.

Why bring it up? The whole conversation and disbelief would have been avoided if meaningful use were in full force. If I could have instantly requested my dental records from my old dentist in Upstate New York, not only would my new dentist have learned I wasn't full of hot air, but that my old dentist has figured out a way to keep my mouth numb so that work could be completed without rushing. Because of current HIPAA laws, I had to fill out paperwork; in person; in Upstate New York, to get my old dentist to share the process with my new one. Not even a phone call is considered legal without a signed document.

This plays out in nearly every medical office that has not participated in the first stage of Meaningful Use. There is so much waste to be eliminated through implementation. Doctors have instant access and can see more patients, or, spend more time with patients during a day. They can order a prescription for you right from their smart phone. Patients get the benefit of clarity when talking in a clinical setting. They also have something to back up their claims when going into a new physician's office right then and there: not while waiting for their paperwork to arrive.

As a Healthcare IT staffing professional, I know one thing is for certain: There will be a big rush in the next two years for HIT talent in order to become Meaningful Use compliant. Then again, it could go 'bust' because of lack of buy-in from physicians and HCO's; but I wouldn't count on it.

What do you think?