Money, get your free money here.

MU two of the most hallowed letters in the alphabet to all hospitals.  I know most of you are thinking “MU”, in Craig’s blog, must be a reference to the University of Missouri and Craig is going to try to convince us that hospitals across the country have decided to make recruiting MU grads their top priority. 

Well that’s not it, although hospitals across the country would benefit from employing University of Missouri grads, even I will admit that universities across the country other than MU produce great employees.  I’ve even met a few KU grads who are excellent at what they do.

MU in the hospital world stands for Meaningful Use and it means millions and millions of dollars for hospitals and physicians over the next few years.  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 or better known as stimulus money, provides incentives for hospitals and physicians to begin using electronic health records.  The hope is, electronic health records, or EHR’s, will help health care become more efficient and improve service delivery.

By adopting an EHR and meeting timelines and requirements set by the federal government, health care providers, specifically hospitals and physicians, can get their piece of a $27 BILLION DOLLAR pie.  If the lure of money isn’t enough, those providers who choose not to adopt an EHR will have their payments from Medicare and Medicaid reduced in a couple of years.  Hospitals and physicians across the country are investing time, energy, and money into meeting the requirements of “Meaningful Use” and doing everything they can to meet the time frames set by the federal government. 

What’s this mean for GVMH?  It could mean more than $4 million in incentive payments.  For a hospital our size, for a hospital any size, 4 million dollars is a lot of money but the old saying “you’ve got to spend money to make money” has never been more fitting. 

Here’s how it works.  GVMH is, and has been, on the cutting edge of electronic health record adoption and we have been working towards having a fully electronic medical record for a number of years.  We are so advanced compared to other hospitals that we are at the 92nd percentile of all hospitals in the country, only 8% of hospitals nationwide have a more advanced electronic health record than GVMH.  We know this to be a fact because there is actually a scale called HIMSS (which stands for Health Care Information and Management Systems Society Scale and a few guys with thick glasses and pocket protectors sat around a table and developed the scale) which measures a hospitals progress in electronic health record adoption on a scale of 1 to 7.  GVMH currently scores 5.1 out of a possible 7 placing it in the top 8% nation wide!

We are well positioned to get our four million dollar piece of the 27 billion dollar pie BUT we still have work to do.  Over the next few months and into the next three years we will be working hard to add new software and develop new processes to meet the timeline set by the federal government.  Even as advanced as we are, it will still be a challenge.  I can’t imagine how those hospitals in the lower half of the scale will get it done.

Fortunately for GVMH we have a head start in the race.  We have been committed to information systems development for a number of years but, as I said, that doesn’t mean the race will be easy.  We’ve still got a couple big hills to climb and we’re going to need new running shoes along the way but at least we’re running on pavement and not in mud.  At this moment in time it’s much better to be in the top 8% as opposed to the bottom 8%.

Assuming we meet all the requirements (and hoping we do because if we don’t people in departments like administration – which just so happens to be the department I’m in – may need to explore new and exciting opportunities in other career fields) unfortunately it doesn’t mean we’ll have an extra $4 million to spend on new equipment, staff raises, and updated facilities. 

In reality the money’s already spent.  Information systems and technology are expensive and as an organization GVMH has invested a considerable amount of money in its electronic health record and we will need to invest more over the next couple years.  It’s important that we think of the money we’re spending as an investment because up to date information systems pay dividends in people’s lives.

We need to think of the money we’ll get from meaningful use as a coupon to help reduce our cost.  We might also want to think of our piece of the pie as “fat-free”. 

Like most “fat-free” desserts, it looks good but leaves you wanting a little more and in this case the little more is money…

About Craig Thompson

I am a young professional with two great sons, and I work in the healthcare setting. I am employed in hospital administration and serve as Chief Operating Officer at Golden Valley Memorial Healthcare in Clinton, Missouri. These are challenging and exciting times in healthcare and my blog will focus on healthcare, raising boys or being raised by boys, and living in mid America.
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