Last year at MGMA 2010 in New Orleans one of the hottest topics of the conference was Meaningful Use Stage 1, and once again this year Meaningful Use was a favorite talking point however this year it was Stage 2 that most people were discussing and how the Meaningful Use Stages are laying the stepping stones towards Accountable Care.

Meaningful Use Stage 2 expectations were presented at the Healthcare Innovations Pavilion by Mark J. Segal, PhD, Vice President of GE Healthcare IT.  Dr. Segal expects that Meaningful Use Stage 2 will improve on the use of functionalities found in Stage 1; “structured data, CPOE, CDS, quality reporting, registry, reminders, etc.”  He also predicts that the Stage 1 optional menu objectives will be mandatory in Stage 2 as well as increased usage of Care Coordination and Patient Engagement functionalities.  We can expect to see a Final Rule from ONC & CMS on Stage 2 in mid to late 2012.

The purpose and goals of Meaningful Use of EHRs were stressed by Dr. Segal.  Medicare and Medicaid payments are obviously outcomes of attesting for Meaningful Use, however, these guidelines are also building the base for a healthcare system with healthier patients serviced by an accountable care model.  Accountable Care is a healthcare model where all who participate in its functions become accountable for quality, cost, and the end results of their patient population.  Accountable Care Organizations are (or should I say will be) groups formed by clinicians and organizations of all healthcare realms including hospitals, primary care physicians, specialists, payers, support staff, and more.  All members will be incentivized to work together to achieve an optimally healthy population.

Dr. Segal explained that Accountable Care Organizations start with information. This information is gathered by  Electronic Health Records, shared by Heath Information and Image exchanges, systematized by Revenue Cycle Management, and organized by Practice Management tools.  An ACO then continues to improve on the information and processes that the previously mentioned systems establish.  This is done through Clinical decision support, evidence-based medicine, quality measurement, and reporting and analytics.  From information to continuous improvement an ACO ends up at a level of proactive care encouraging patient engagement, care coordination, predictive modeling, population management and care and disease management.  Dr. Segal explains ACOs as organizations that are highly digitized and connected, constantly improving on their systems, and practicing proactive care.

In the end CMS aims to achieve better care for patients, improved health of populations, and less costs and waste for all parties involved.  Meaningful Use and Accountable Care Organizations are being designed to help our nation’s healthcare systems and providers get there.