Most radiologists are eligible for the meaningful use program, says Keith J. Dreyer, DO, PhD. So don’t be tempted by the hardship exemption.
Meaningful use, the federal government’s incentive program for electronic health records, can seem like a complex evolving program. But this is clear: an overwhelming majority of radiologists are eligible and it’s a worthy effort.
“It’s very achievable for radiologists,” Keith J. Dreyer, DO, PhD, FACR, FSIIM, chair of the ACR IT and Informatics Committee-Government Relations Subcommittee and radiology vice chair at Massachusetts General Hospital, said in an interview after his presentation last week at the American College of Radiology’s Imaging Informatics Summit. “While you can look at the hardship exemption, I don’t recommend you do it.”
Dreyer was referring to the significant hardship exemption included in Stage 2 of Meaningful Use. This allows radiologists, as well as anesthesiologists and pathologists, can apply for exemption from penalties if they have significant difficulty meeting the requirements.
Despite this concession, radiologists for the most part don’t seem to be tempted by this provision, Dreyer said. The exemption is really intended for radiologists in a hospital setting, for example, where the facility doesn’t have the technology or plans to invest, or radiologists who practice is a lot of facilities.
Michael Peters, ACR’s legislative and regulatory affairs director, noted that this exemption is only for five years, and is subject to annual review. “It’s only a temporary reprieve of the penalties,” he said.
Instead, radiologists should be gaining as much information on the program as possible, Dreyer said. Initial confusion over radiologists’ inclusion in the program has been cleared up, and several organizations are working hard to provide radiologists with updates. First, radiologists should determine if they are eligible, then figure out how to comply, Dreyer said during a panel discussion.
“There are no cookie cutter solutions,” he said. “You have to ask the questions and see what works for you.”
For more on what Stage 2 means for radiologists, check out this video interview with the ACR's Michael Peters: