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Special report: Imaging informatics

by Lisa Chamoff , DOTmed contributing reporter
This first appeared in the May 2014 issue of DOTmed HealthCare Business News

When the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 kicked off a program to provide incentive payments to doctors who demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health record technology, many radiologists were left scratching their heads, wondering whether or not the program applied to them.

Five years later, the federal government has distributed millions of dollars in incentives to radiologists, but doctors are still hoping the program will evolve to be truly “meaningful” for imaging.

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Since many of the core requirements of Meaningful Use — collecting patient demographic information and smoking status, for example — are geared more toward primary care doctors who actually visit with patients, it has been a challenge for practices to comply. As of last year, only about 10 to 12 percent of the country’s 30,000 radiologists had successfully attested to stage 1.

“Meaningful Use is talking about office visits, patient encounters,” says Dr. David Hirschorn, director of Radiology Informatics at Staten Island University Hospital and also a research fellow in Radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. “It’s a shame that the program does not really address health IT in radiology.”

Radiologists are taking advantage, albeit in small numbers. Imaging centers that have invested in the certified technology to reap the benefits — a maximum of $44,000 over five years for physicians who collect at least $24,000 a year in Medicare payments — and avoid penalties, have managed to make it work.

Overcoming challenges
Dr. Wells Mangrum leads Meaningful Use efforts for Medical X-Ray Consultants, an 11-radiologist group based in Eau Claire, Wis. His group works with many hospitals, none of which have an EMR system that is certified for outpatient Meaningful Use.

To comply with the law, Medical X-Ray Consultants has had to adopt its own EMR. They selected Imaging Elements, a radiologycentric EHR provider that offers a complete certified solution to meet outpatient Meaningful Use requirements. Robert Cooke, who most recently was a senior vice president at Fujifilm Medical Systems, founded the company in 2012.

To overcome the challenge of recording data from patient encounters, Medical X-Ray Consultants worked with its billing company, Cvikota, to electronically collect the necessary information from the many hospitals the practice works with. This greatly simplified the process, Mangrum says.

Medical X-Ray Consultants is still in stage 1 of Meaningful Use compliance. Mangrum says that compliance has been financially rewarding in the short-term. Their group has been able to keep 75 percent of the government payment with only 25 percent of costs used to finance infrastructure, such as the EMR.

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