Second Vermont Practice Joins the Meaningful Use Vanguard
White River Family Practice in White River Junction has become the second Vermont physician practice to join the Meaningful Use Vanguard by using its electronic health records system to improve patient care. After attesting to achieving meaningful use, the six physicians in the practice each received $18,000 in EHR incentives from Medicare, the maximum available in the first year of that program. They will be eligible for additional incentive payments in each of the next four years, for a total of up to $44,000 per physician.
The White River Junction physicians achieving meaningful use are: Mark Nunlist, MD; Sean Uiterwyk, MD; David Park, MD; Julie Davis, MD; Angela Toms, MD; and Michael Lyons, MD. They were presented with Meaningful Use Vanguard certificates signed by Farzad Mostashari, MD, ScM, the national coordinator for health Information technology, at a luncheon held by VITL on Nov. 10. VITL is the health IT regional extension center for Vermont, and assisted White River Family Practice with both its EHR implementation and achieving meaningful use.
The physicians and the rest of the staff at White River Family Practice are to be commended for learning how to use an EHR in a meaningful way, while at the same time continuing to take good care of patients on a daily basis, said VITL President and CEO David Cochran, MD. “The incentives are there to acknowledge and mitigate what an important but difficult challenge this is. But it is grounded in a firm belief that if we overcome those challenges, use the records meaningfully, tie them to the kinds of programs we have here in the state with the Blueprint for Health and in the country with the National Strategy for Quality Improvement in Health Care, the result will be better care for our patients, a safer health care system, and a more efficient health care system,” he said.
Implementing an EHR and using it to improve patient care is an important tie-in to the health reform initiatives taking place in Vermont, Dr. Cochran said. “The work that has been done in using the electronic record as effectively as it has been puts the practice in a terrific position to be a very effective participant in the Blueprint’s statewide program, and that statewide program is foundational to the changes that are going to be required as we move into a changing reimbursement system here in the state.”
White River Family Practice implemented an EHR in early 2010 and began preparing to achieve meaningful use last November, said Dr. Nunlist. Preparation included working with VITL’s EHR implementation specialists to complete a meaningful use readiness survey, and an EHR security assessment. “We really would not be where we are without the help of VITL along the way,” he said.
In May, the practice began the 90-day attestation period, which included collecting data on several clinical quality measures. The practice reviewed the data on a weekly basis, Dr. Nunlist said, printing out graphs and posting them in the hallways for all office staff to see. Individual providers received graphs showing data from their patient panels.
The practice achieved meaningful use in September, Dr. Nunlist said. While the attestation period was only for 90 days in 2011, starting on Jan. 1 it will be a year-round effort, he said. “This is the way life will be. My sense is it ought to get more so, because really that’s what we’re about. We want to actually improve health.”