Challenges and Benefits of Patient Engagement

Guest post by Lea Chatham, editor-in-chief, Getting Paid, a Kareo Resource.

Lea Chatham
Lea Chatham

Patient engagement has been the hot topic of this past year or two. Everyone agrees that engaging patients more in their healthcare can help reduce costs and improve overall health. A study conducted by HIMSS in 2015 showed that the majority of physicians believe patient engagement is beneficial and should be a part of their job. However, the study also concluded that over 40 percent of physicians worry that there is little reimbursement for engagement activities.

Patient are looking for more ways to connect with providers from online scheduling to text reminder to email follow ups and social media. And while many see these as conveniences, the reality is that they do also improve health and have the potential to reduce costs. Studies have shown that simple follow up communications via text and email can help ensure patients show up for appointments and can reduce hospital re-admissions, which has a big impact on healthcare costs.

Unfortunately, physicians are already stretched thin trying to care for patients, run their practices, adhere to complex programs like meaningful use and PQRS, and navigate changes like ICD-10. Who has the time to do more? And many providers worry that “engagement” means more work with less reimbursement. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In fact there are many opportunities to automate engagement and provide the tools patients want without adding any time or effort to a provider’s plate. Today, there are solutions that once set up enable easy online scheduling, text and email reminders, follow up patient surveys, and even re-care programs.

This infographic highlights some of the feelings of both patients and providers feel about patient engagement and shows how practices can utilize engagement strategies that benefits both and do have a financial return.

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Meaningful Use Stage 3: Highlights and Provider Wins

Dr. Seth Flam
Dr. Seth Flam

Guest post by Dr. Seth Flam, CEO, HealthFusion.

The proposed rule for meaningful use Stage 3 was announced on Friday, March 20, 2015, and is now available for comment by stakeholders. Here are five highlights of the Stage 3 proposed rule and what I see as three provider wins:


  1. 2017 is now a Flex Year– Meaningful use Stage 3 was originally slated to begin in 2017 for providers that had completed Stage 2; now 2017 is a flex year. This means that providers who would have progressed from Stage 2 to Stage 3 in 2017 now have the option to stay in Stage 2 an additional year. Only providers who use an EHR certified to the 2015 ONC standards will be allowed to attest to Stage 3.
  2. Every provider will be Meaningful Use Stage 3 in 2018 even if 2018 is the provider’s first reporting year – In order to simplify the meaningful use program, all providers will be in the same stage. This will allow group practices to focus on a single set of measures for all providers.
  3. Meaningful Use Stage 3 is the final stage of meaningful use– However, CMS is clear that because it expects technology and care standards to evolve over time it will consider (and we expect) that there will be future rulemaking related to meaningful use Stage 3 somewhere down the line.
  4. All providers will report for one calendar year – in an effort to continue to align meaningful use with other government reporting programs such as PQRS, all providers will report for a full year based on the calendar with one exception. Medicaid first year providers will still be allowed to report based on a 90-day period measurement period. In the past CMS has shortened measurement periods based on provider feedback and we expect that to be true about this year. This year (2015) was slated to be a full year for most providers, but we expect it to be scaled back to a quarterly measurement period because of the continued side effects of the poor implementation of Stage 2 last year. For 2017 and beyond, we expect the implementation will be smoother and we don’t foresee more flexibility on measurement periods beginning next year.
  5. There are eight objectives and some objectives have more than one measure – the total number of measures that providers will be required to report is 16.

Wins for Providers in the Meaningful Use Stage 2 Proposed Rule

I see three wins for providers in the meaningful use Stage 3 Rule, including:

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CMS releases the 2013 PQRS and Electronic Prescribing (e-prescribing) Incentive Program Report

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) releases the 2013 Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) and Electronic Prescribing (e-prescribing) Incentive Program Experience Report, providing data and trends on participation, incentive eligibility, incentive payments and payment adjustments since the beginning of the programs.

The 2013 report found that there was an increase in participation from eligible professionals and in reporting clinical quality information for both PQRS and the e-prescribing Incentive Program, reflecting both increased use of electronic prescribing as well as increased tracking and reporting of important quality information. The report also indicates progress in CMS’ efforts to improve quality measurements, and to encourage building a national electronic health information infrastructure in the United States.

Report highlights include:

In 2013, 641,654 eligible professionals participated either as individuals or as part of PQRS group practices, through at least one reporting mechanism, a 47 percent increase from the 435,931 who participated in 2012. Approximately 51 percent of the 1.25 million professionals who were eligible to participate in 2013 participated in PQRS. The 2013 PQRS incentive payments totaled $214,551,741.

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