Article Date: 1/1/2012

Meaningful Use: It's Not Just for Electronic Health Records
o.d. to o.d.

Meaningful Use: It's Not Just for Electronic Health Records

Apply the “meaningful use” test to ensure you're focused on the most important aspect of your practice.

By Walter D. West, O.D., F.A.A.O.
Chief Optometric Editor

There's been a lot of discussion about “meaningful use” through the past few years as it pertains to Electronic Healthcare Records (EHR). Although there may be some confusion on this point, “meaningful use” is comprised of goals that are about healthcare, not about information technology. The overall goals of meaningful use are to use EHR technology to improve the quality, safety and efficiency of patient care.

In addition, meaningful use includes an initiative to engage patients and families, improve the coordination of care and ensure adequate privacy and security for personal health information, while improving public health.

Given these benefits of meaningful use, I began thinking of other situations in optometry where we could use the “meaningful use” test to ensure that we're focused on the most important aspect of our practices: the patient.

It's not just about the fees

It's with a significant frequency that I hear optometrists ask more questions about CPT codes and reimbursements possible with a given piece of diagnostic equipment than I hear them ask about the benefits of these devices to their patients. I hope this is because I just didn't happen to be around for that part of the conversation. But, listen in sometimes; do you ever hear O.D.s discuss diagnostic equipment only in terms of the fees that are generated for the practice? I get the impression that there might be some doctors who look for a diagnosis so they can use their equipment rather than looking to their equipment to help them make a diagnosis.

Review your clinical protocol

I could certainly be wrong and I hope I am, but I think this might be a great way to use the “meaningful use” test in another way. How about you review your clinical protocol. Do you find any times where diagnostic equipment is used and it doesn't improve the quality, safety, and efficiency of patient care? Or are their times when the diagnostic equipment does serve to engage patients in the diagnosis and/ or treatment? Is the equipment helping in the coordination of care?

One of the advantages for optometrists as a result of our now broader scope of care is the increased earnings that come along with it. But, along with that increased scope of practice, increased service to patients and increased earnings potential comes a responsibility to guard against treating diagnostic equipment as a gin that patients are put through to merely generate a fee for service.

Positioning for your patients

There's nothing wrong with setting the purchase price of a piece of equipment against your return on investment calculation. After all, we are in a business to make a profit, and no one is more focused on increasing profits than me. But it's important that we don't put ourselves in the position of performing diagnostic tests merely to make a monthly equipment payment. Instead, we must put our equipment to the “meaningful use” test for our patients. OM

Optometric Management, Volume: 47 , Issue: January 2012, page(s): 4