Meaningful Use Fatigue?: Program Seems More Like Long-term Payday Loan than Professional Initiative

I can’t think of a more obvious statement than the one recently made by Impact Advisor principal Laura Kreofsky, who said recently that everyone in healthcare is going to hit a wall in a year or two and fatigue is going to settle in regarding meaningful use.

By 2015, we’re all going to be sick and tired of meaningful use.

I already am.

However, according to Kreofsky, as originally reported by Government Health IT, nobody who initially evaluated meaningful use had any idea how comprehensive or difficult it was going to be to maintain the program in the long term. Nobody understood how long the program would last and just how much effort it would take to maintain.

Seriously? Can this be true? Is this really how most of  healthcare’s leaders feel/felt about meaningful use as they march/marched headlong into the program?

This is a federally sponsored program after all. Though the benefits seemed somewhat worth the effort – in the form of cash incentives – when all is done, this is really just an effort by the government to buy data from physicians, practices and health systems for  pennies on the dollar.

Even if the effort does result in better care and positive patient outcomes, I can’t imagine most eligible caregivers didn’t think there would be some price to pay. Surely, no one thought $44,000 wouldn’t come with a cost.

For all of your efforts, you’re getting a pittance while you become nothing more than a long-term, unpaid information gatherer for the federal government.

Kreofsky makes another good point: Most healthcare organizations participating in the meaningful use incentive program are currently focused on achieving Stages 1 or 2.

But the meaningful use goes on and on, according to her, “Organizations need to start considering how they will make meaningful use sustainable into the future.”

Here’s the heart of the matter, where the truth really lies, reported by Government Health IT: “After the stages of MU are achieved, organizations will need to sustain MU to avoid penalties and some of the responsibilities of MU that may have been assigned to a temporary project team will begin to fall to the IT department or be parceled out to various permanent staff. It will take time to ‘operationalize’ MU into a sustainable program.”

As my father used to say, nothing in life is free, certainly not something the government “pays” you for.

In my humble opinion, meaningful use is going to lead to more than fatigue. I think it’s going to ruin some practices and overly burden many others. That may sound harsh, but it’s not a free ride and all participants are going to pay for playing even though they’re getting a little cash in the beginning.

In some ways, this is beginning to feel as though the whole program is built like a short-term loan business. Easy money available in the beginning, but it’s hard as hell to pay the loans back and the interest rates are overbearing. Before one knows it, they’re working for no other reason than to pay back the loan that started out as nothing more than a second thought.

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