Two-Provider Practice Achieves 'Meaningful Use' In Eight Short Weeks

Date: June 6th, 2012Category: CORHIO e-NewsletterTopics: EHRs, Meaningful Use, Regional Extension Center

Fort Collins Family Practice Clinic Attests for Meaningful Use with Medicare EHR Incentive Program

As a family nurse practitioner at St. Luke’s Medical Center, Tricia Lipinski initially believed that ‘Meaningful Use’ was too burdensome a task for a family practice clinic to take on. However, with assistance from the Colorado Regional Extension Center (CO-REC), which provides free services to help small primary care providers adopt, implement and become meaningful users of electronic health records (EHRs), St. Luke’s was able to maximize the benefits of their EHR system and qualify for Medicare incentives in record time.

“On paper, Meaningful Use sounds so overwhelming. As a full-time advanced practice nurse, I thought ‘how will I manage this?’” said Lipinski. “But, by working with CO-REC and CFMC (Colorado Foundation for Medical Care, CO-REC’s partner organization) and carefully going over the core objectives for Stage 1, we realized that we were already capturing a lot of the data that is needed for Meaningful Use. With help from our software vendor, we were able to locate the data, make all of the necessary calculations and pull our quality reports. The best part was looking at the data and feeling really positive about the quality of care that we’re giving our patients.”

Improving Quality of Care Through EHRs

St. Luke’s Medical Center, located in Fort Collins, treats approximately 200 patients each week and has two providers on staff, Dr. Michael Lynch, board certified in internal medicine, and nurse, Tricia Lipinski. The practice has used a hybrid EHR system (a combination of electronic and paper records) since it first opened its doors in November 2006.

EHRs have been beneficial to both staff and patients at St. Luke’s by positively impacting the quality of patient care, improving outcomes and increasing operational efficiency. For instance, in the evening, if Lipinski receives a call about a patient’s medication or if a patient has an emergency, she can log into the EHR from home and pull up the patient record in a moment’s notice having access to vital information, such as the patient’s last visit, current medications or allergies.

Additionally, with the electronic transmission of medication, the EHR can alert Lipinski to drug interactions or changes in the drug formulary. “I am told all of this information before the patient gets to the pharmacy saving time for our practice and our patients,” explains Lipinski.

This summer, St. Luke’s is expected to go live on the health information exchange (HIE) allowing their practice to develop a single interface for their lab and immunization data rather than build out several interfaces to connect with labs, clinics, hospitals and the Colorado Immunization Information System. The HIE will also help them transmit the vaccination information, as well as data to the CDC.

Successfully Achieving Meaningful Use

Eight short weeks after their initial contact with CO-REC in March, St. Luke’s attested for the Medicare EHR Incentive Program. “Not only did CO-REC help us with Stage 1, they helped me to prepare for Stage 2. I now have a total understanding of what I need to do between now and 2013,” said Lipinski. “I’ve spoken with many other physicians and nurses that were resistant to start the Meaningful Use process. But, if I can keep up with my patient load, have a life outside of the practice and successfully achieve Meaningful Use in eight weeks, then anyone can.”

“St. Luke’s was a delight to work with,” said CFMC Project Manager, Ellen Batchelor. “They were excited to meet the goals and worked hard between appointments. As a result, they attested more quickly than any other practice I have worked with.”