Orthopaedics chief sets an impressive record for meaningful use

He says physicians need to make achieving the standard a priority

Gary Friedlaender, MD

In early June, Yale Medical Group orthopaedic physician Gary Friedlaender, MD, became the first department chair at the Yale School of Medicine to achieve the meaningful use standard for the Epic electronic medical record (EMR).

The accomplishment is noteworthy for its speed—Dr. Friedlaender, who heads the Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, met the federally mandated standard in the first 90-day reporting period after Epic went live in the YMG practice he leads. “I was unaware that I’d set a record,” he said, sounding both amused and pleased. “It was not something I set out to accomplish.”

Dr. Friedlaender placed most of the credit for his capturing the meaningful use “merit badge” on his clinical team in orthopaedics and on Amber Patterson, the Epic team’s meaningful use compliance coordinator, and her colleagues. “Amber and her team deserve enormous credit for building a system that makes achieving meaningful use as straightforward as possible,” he said.

Meaningful use is ‘not negotiable’

One challenge in mastering the system was getting used to the additional time it takes to enter the required data into the EMR, Dr. Friedlaender said. “If you’re seeing 30 to 40 patients a day and it takes even an extra minute per patient, you’re talking about an increase in time to document information,” he noted.

Some of this additional time may be simply part of the learning curve, but Dr. Friedlaender suggested it may also reflect the one-size-fits-all nature of the list of meaningful use criteria that includes items that are not necessarily routine or previously required for every subspecialty exam. “We have talented clinicians who have been doing the right thing for many years, but in different ways,” he said. “But the meaningful use checklist is not negotiable. It’s a requirement set by the federal government and it must be met. So, as academic physicians used to leading and defining, we need to get past our resistance to following and simply get down to the business of accomplishing this task.”

Steven M. Schlossberg, MD, chief medical information officer for the Yale School of Medicine and the Yale New Haven Health System, said, “As with any new system and new government requirements, physicians and administration are taking a critical look at all the new workflows to try to optimize the new system.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Friedlaender is certain there will be worthwhile rewards for working toward meaningful use. “We’re collecting far more meaningful information for each patient, and everyone we care for will be better served,” he said.