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Practice Velocity surveyed 10 large chains of urgent care centers about meaningful use. Not one chain reported that they participated or planned to participate. Why is that?

The federal mandate incentivizes electronic medical record (EMR) adoption and enforces negative sanctions for providers that fail to actively participate in rigorous documentation rules. Meaningful Use (MU) guidelines force EMR users to collect and report data. The policy, however, has diverted the technology from producing functionality that would have true interoperability and improved user experiences.

And many health professionals–not just urgent care professionals–are unhappy about it. The American Medical Association and 110 other medical associations recently sent letters to members of Congress urging them to intervene. Physicians argue it will be nearly impossible to comply with the “meaningless and ill-informed bureaucratic requirements” outlined in the next stages of Meaningful Use implementation.

Today, MU serves as a catalyst for software systems development, but the vast majority of the added features have no value to an urgent care. Practice Velocity spent a year in development to ensure our VelociDoc EMR complies with MU requirements. But even with a user-friendly and efficient system, many clinicians struggle to jump through all of the hoops.

The AMA reports the letters to Congress point out:

  • Physician time is being diverted from patient care to data entry.
  • Patient records are being filled with unnecessary documentation unrelated to providing high-quality care.
  • The program has created new barriers to exchanging data and other information across care settings.

Urgent care software solutions continue to evolve as new rules are released and standards elevate toward full adoption. Complying with MU guidelines mean significant changes from traditional care models for many clinicians. And some just aren’t going to do it.

It’s imperative that urgent cares are using EMR systems that are intuitive and efficient to collect and analyze clinical data — and to capture operational and patient data in a way that can be numerically represented and analyzed.

By forcing EMRs to meet all of these requirements, government bureaucrats have diverted EMRs in recent years from producing functionality that would have improved the systems and produced real interoperability. Fortunately, there are non-government efforts sponsored by coalitions of EMR companies that show great promise.

If the government would simply pull the plug on MU, I suspect market forces would rapidly produce true interoperability and better functionality.

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