Making the Most of Meaningful Use Deadlines

Guest Column by Val Van’t Hul, Meaningful Use Project Manager, DocuTAP.

Val Van’t Hul

Providers at urgent care centers around the country are preparing to attest for either Stage 1 or Stage 2 meaningful use this year, and knowing the differences in reporting periods can make a huge difference in the process. Reporting periods vary depending on which stage an eligible professional (EP) is in, and whether a provider is attesting through the Medicaid or Medicare EHR incentive program.

To further explain this process, here are the reporting periods for 2014 indicated by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS):


An EP must select any 90-day reporting period that falls within the 2014 calendar year. Since Medicaid is state government-based, urgent care centers are tasked with researching any particular rules and regulations that pertain to their location, as these vary from state to state.


An EP participating in the first year of meaningful use (Stage 1, year 1) must select any 90-day reporting period. However, to avoid the 2015 payment adjustment the EP must begin the reporting period by July 1 and submit attestation data by October 1, 2014. This grace period is designed to help clinics that are still working out best practices and processes for attestation.

Medicare – An EP who is beyond their first year of Meaningful Use (Stage 1, year 2 or beyond) must select a three-month reporting period that is fixed to the quarter of the calendar year (i.e. July to September or October to December). There is not one quarter that is better than others for reporting, but clinics should keep in mind that there should be ample time to implement any changes in clinical workflow prior to the start of the reporting period. If an EHR vendor is properly certified for Meaningful Use and the urgent care client can begin the process, they may choose a later reporting period to allow time to properly order their workflow.

Meaningful Use Tracking & Reporting

Urgent care centers should monitor clinical workflow progress often to benchmark the eligible professional’s progress in working toward achieving Meaningful Use objectives. It is wise to run meaningful use reports from the EHR software, as well as conduct a provider analysis every few weeks to find out where and how adjustments need to be made in the progression toward these objectives. If EPs are falling below a preferred threshold in any area, this benchmarking provides ample time to get up-to-speed on clinic initiatives.

In addition to implementing tracking measures, it is necessary to understand the importance of delineating between “yes or no” and numerator/denominator reports. While the former are fairly self-explanatory (i.e. as with drug interaction checks), clinics should take careful documentation measures to prove compliance, including taking regular screenshots of what is happening in a clinic’s EHR software system during the reporting period. For example, when pop-ups of patient medicinal allergies occur, a screenshot of this notification, along with a date/time stamp, should be taken and a copy kept on file for up to six years, as this is the standard amount of time for which CMS may audit the eligible professionals.

Numerator/denominator reports are part of meaningful use measures that use collected EHR data to calculate a percentage that benchmarks progress toward meaningful use objectives according to preset minimum thresholds. For these reports, extensive documentation is also advisable to prove that activity toward progress was made during a reporting period.

Providers planning to attest for meaningful use in 2014 can use this information to gain a better understanding of the special reporting periods in 2014 for Medicare and Medicaid Eligible Professionals. It is imperative to understand meaningful use reporting periods in order to avoid the 2015 payment adjustment. Further information can be found by visiting the CMS website for the latest updates and news regarding EHR incentive programs.

Changing Urgent Care

Meaningful use provides a means by which to improve patient-centered care, as medical information will become more available for use between healthcare systems, and between urgent care clinics and patients. In addition, greater patient safety and satisfaction are provided through clinics that have successfully attested for meaningful use. Patients will be able to receive a clinical summary of their visit, and providers have a wealth of information on hand to be able to continue to provide top-notch care. It is important to be fully informed about the rules and regulations regarding meaningful use, and knowing reporting deadlines is a great place to start.

Val  Van’t Hul is meaningful use project manager at DocuTAP, a Sioux Falls, S.D.-based company that is the country’s leading provider of integrated electronic health records (EHR) and practice management software for urgent care practices.

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