Achieving Meaningful Use as a Rural Solo Nurse Practitioner Practice

Justin Bennett and Marty Bennett | May 9, 2013

This is the fourth blog post in a National Nurses Week series. This post focuses on how nurses are achieving meaningful use and how Electronic Health Records and nursing have evolved over time. We encourage you to read the entire series.

Every day brings something new and exciting to Riverside Family Medicine, where I work as a Family Practice Nurse Practitioner (NP). My goal is to provide top-notch health care in the rural setting of Maurepas, Louisiana, and engage my patients in tracking their own health care using our electronic health record (EHR).

This commitment is why Riverside Family Medicine serves as “proof that regardless of the setting, it is possible to provide high quality care,” says Nadine Robin, Louisiana Health Information Technology (LHIT) Resource Center Program Manager. LHIT is one of the 62 Regional Extensions Centers (RECs) working with small private practices across the nation. Of the more than 20,000 NPs working with RECs, 40% are located in small private practices such as mine

Nurses are playing a critical role in achieving meaningful use of EHR

NPs are playing such a critical role in adopting and achieving meaningful use of EHRs. My patients don’t come to my clinic simply because it’s the closest. There’s trust and a relationship, especially in rural communities like ours. My patients do have a choice, and they choose to see me.

EHRs help me refer patients to specialists

It gives me a sense of pride that my patients continue to come back. I evaluate and initiate treatment for patients of all ages, from pediatric to adult care, and with any condition. I help provide a smooth transition for my patients by establishing immediate contact with the needed specialist, and the EHR helps me make these referrals or handoffs.

EHRs also help me with preventive care and patient education

I also rely on the EHR to monitor and track preventative care measures and provide patient education resources to support healthy lifestyle choices among the patients I see. I believe that the focus should be on proactive care rather than reactive care. I use the patients’ time in the office to help them understand what is happening with their health and how to take steps to change it.

My practice is achieving EHR meaningful use

Because of what our practice has accomplished since it first opened in 2006, we have maintained a strong focus on quality improvement. As part of those efforts, we are now a Patient-Centered Medical Home, and are meaningfully using an EHR.

The Clinic just received its first CMS incentive payment for demonstrating EHR meaningful use in January 2013. For many NPs, receiving the money is critical to achieving meaningful use.

I was more likely to achieve meaningful use because I worked with an REC

Much of the success here at Riverside and around the country is due to the help in achieving meaningful use that is provided by regional extension centers, like the Louisiana Health Care Quality Forum (LHCQF). New research from ONC shows that NPs partnering with RECs are more likely to be paid through the CMS EHR incentive program than NPs not working with an REC.

We are focused on quality of care and care coordination

Our CFO Marty Bennett is focused on the quality of care:

“We believe strongly in care coordination and good, quality medicine. We want to be engaged as providers, and we want our patients to be involved in their care.”

As part of that mission, the clinic is committed to continuing education for its staff, always seeking out new ways “to go above and beyond in all levels of care,” Marty says.

Because of the growing shortage of primary care providers in rural areas across the nation, she knows that the commitment of NPs to quality care improvement is critical.

“NPs have been providing this level of care for many years. They are independently licensed with a lot of experience,” says Marty, adding, “We have set the bar very high here, and we are focused on keeping it high.”

Nadine Robin adds, “Justin, Marty and their staff are incredible examples of how quality improvement efforts like EHR meaningful use can benefit patients and the critical role NPs play in their communities.”

I hope that my story of meaningfully using an EHR in my rural practice gives you some ideas of how an EHR could help you improve your patients’ engagement in their own health. Please leave any questions or comments below.