RSNA: Meaningful use could mean $44K per radiologist

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CHICAGO--The HITECH (Health IT for Economic and Clinical Health) Act is a not a windfall for radiologists; it is a partly funded mandate that uses stimulus funds that cannot be rescinded despite political posturing to the contrary. The radiology profession needs to get on board with meaningful use and leverage inherent challenges and opportunities, according to a session presented Nov. 29 during the 96th annual scientific meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

Who qualifies?
Most radiologists qualify for meaningful use incentives of $44,000 over five years, beginning in 2011, confirmed Ramin Khorasani, MD, director of information management systems at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. To be eligible for meaningful use, radiologists must be enrolled with Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and qualify under Medicare or Medicaid.

The meaningful use clock is ticking and starts with a phased approach. Radiology, which was initially left out of meaningful use conversation, is a bit of a late arrival with providers and stakeholders attempting to understand its implications.

Stage one, beginning in 2011, is focused on data capture and data sharing. Meeting meaningful use will become progressively more challenging; stage 2, which starts in 2013, emphasizes advanced clinical processes. And finally, stage 3, which is to be determined, focuses on improved outcomes.

Given the uncertainties and complexities radiologists may be tempted to ignore meaningful use and hope that it goes away. Keith J. Dreyer, MD, vice chairman of radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, cautioned against such an approach. “Meaningful use will not end in 2015 with stage 3. If we don’t get hit with more attention to radiology by 2015, it will probably still happen,” he stated.

The evolution of meaningful use
“Most radiologists will have gaps to qualify for meaningful use in stage 1 even if currently used products [gain certification]. Gaps will be more substantial in stage 2 and 3. Radiologists will have to do more,” said Khorasani, who predicted that most radiologists will have to leverage hospital-base EHRs to qualify for meaningful use. (For more about criteria and certification please read Busting the Meaningful Use Myth.)

Although meaningful use incentives can reach $44,000 per radiologist, Khorasani cautioned physicians against making plans for the windfall. Employers, he said, will likely determine how incentive funds will be spent. In many cases, funds will be leveraged to purchase and implement certified health IT as current systems do not meet all criteria.

Khorasani concluded with advice for the audience. “Identify a champion in your practice. Assess the current state to indentify gaps.” The upshot? Meaningful use is here to stay and radiologists need to be part of the process.