In push for Meaningful Use, how did radiologists get left behind?

It's not good news when an entire segment of the healthcare industry feels disenfranchised from the much ballyhooed electronic health record incentive program. Evidently, though, many radiologists are hesitant about joining a bandwagon that they feel doesn't have their best interests in mind, according to the new report issued jointly by KLAS Research and the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).  

"Radiology originally was not included in the EHR incentive program," Emily Crane, KLAS research director and author of the report, tells FierceEMR. "It was swept in at the last minute. The way it's currently set up is not geared well to radiology."  

That's why many radiologists are concerned about their ability to meet the Meaningful Use requirements. For example, the report finds that the respondents believe that the clinical decision support inherent in EHR systems is an important way to ensure that the correct imaging tests are ordered, as well as to reduce unnecessary and costly imaging.

But the criteria in Stage 1 of Meaningful Use are geared more toward primary care physicians, not specialists, and would force radiologists to adopt rules that either don't apply to them or that wouldn't benefit patients. For instance, radiologists don't necessarily need to track and report on patient smoking history or patient engagement, Crane says. Monitoring and measuring clinical quality measures is harder for radiologists, since patients go back to their primary care physicians, not the radiologists, for follow up.  

It shouldn't be unexpected, therefore, that some respondents say they are unfamiliar with the Meaningful Use criteria, want more clarity, and have no or little interest in participating in the EHR incentive program, even though most of them would qualify as Eligible Professionals and could earn incentive payments. "I [wouldn't be] surprised if the more peripheral users find EHRs more pain than what they're worth," Marc Resnick, PhD, Professor of Human Factors and Information Design at Bentley University in Waltham, Mass., tells FierceEMR

Crane, though, is optimistic that the measures for Stage 2 will be more specific to radiologists. "I believe that changes will be made as a result of this study," she says. She adds that RSNA currently is in discussion with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT regarding such issues.    

In the meantime, Crane says, hospitals executives should stop thinking of radiology as just an offshoot of their facility, and consider it more in their Meaningful Use strategies.

"Hospital administrators hopefully will appreciate how hard it is for radiologists to implement and integrate these systems," she says. "I hope word will get out." - Marla