Texas hospitals in 'pretty good position' for meaningful use

Mainstream media--even local business media--when will you ever learn? The Dallas Business Journal reports that: "The healthcare reform law passed in March requires all hospitals to adopt electronic health records and track and report patient outcomes."

Wrong. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, passed in February 2009, incentivizes hospitals to adopt EHRs and track and report patient outcomes--if they want to earn Medicare and Medicaid bonus payments. Even with penalties for non-adoption that start in 2015, EHR usage is not required, just strongly encouraged with money. (Funny, the reporter even mentions "meaningful use" in the third paragraph and the penalties in the fourth paragraph.)

That egregious error aside, the article takes an in-depth--and hopefully accurate--look at how North Texas hospitals and health systems are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to computerize their medical records, share data, earn some extra cash and, yes, improve patient care.

Texas Health Resources has completed EHR implementation at 12 of its 13 hospitals as part of a $200 million project, and expects to earn back about $70 million in stimulus payments over the next five years. "From the ER to radiology to a patient floor, the patient's chart is available electronically with no chance of the paper trail getting lost," CMIO Dr. Ferdinand Velasco tells Dallas Business Journal. CPOE is in place at the 12 hospitals, and some have a usage rate of more than 90 percent, far ahead of the 2011-12 standard for meaningful use.

Baylor Health Care System also is spending $200 million for the first generation of an EHR, and expects further expenditures for updated technology in the future. Baylor is in line for about $45 million in extra payments, but it's not just about the money for the 26-hospital organization. "We're trying to achieve truly meaningful use," CMIO Dr. Joseph Schneider says. "We're not just trying to achieve the requirements of the government. We're trying to go beyond that to meet our own internal requirements."

Still, Baylor, like many others, is struggling right now to make data connections with affiliated medical practices, public-health departments and the Texas immunization registry.

Methodist Health System sees itself in "pretty good position" to capture Medicare and Medicaid incentive money, according to CIO Pamela McNutt. But, curiously, the Business Journal reports that Parkland Health & Hospital System won't seek the bonus payments "because its electronic records upgrades started before the stimulus bill was passed." Huh?

In a statement emailed to FierceEMR, Parkland CIO Jack Kowitt says the Business Journal misquoted him. "My comment was that we have already spent $70 million to implement what we have done since 2005. The stimulus remark was regarding grants to install systems and the answer was that we have already implemented the systems that facilities not as advanced as us are looking to do with stimulus funds. The comment didn't include meaningful use funding which we are aggressively pursuing," he tells FierceEMR.

For more information--some of it factual:
- check out this Dallas Business Journal story