Executive Reaction To The Stage 2 Meaningful Use Extension

Posted on by Frank J. Rosello

It’s official. Hospitals and healthcare providers nationwide may get a little more time with meaningful use requirements after CMS proposed Friday extending the Stage 2 deadline to 2016 – a decision that has many health IT officials breathing big sighs of relief.  

The deadline for providers and hospitals to achieve meaningful use of electronic health records is currently slated for October 2014, but the new proposal may alter that date in the near future.

Overall, the proposed delay, which also includes a Stage 3 pushback to 2017, was lauded as “good news” for the folks at San Diego-based Sharp Healthcare, said Elizabeth Renfree, director of interoperability at the health system. “We have been working to prepare for Stage 2, but are still waiting on code updates from our vendor that will not be delivered until January,” she wrote to Healthcare IT News.

Renfree also cited the “significant workflow processes” they have yet to implement in order to meet the requirements for transition of care, view, download and transmit measures.

Mary Anne Leach, CIO at Children’s Hospital Colorado, said a Stage 2 extension would be “an enormous relief to the provider community” and the hospital alike.

Because CHC’s in the process of opening new hospital locations, optimizing their EMR and moving forward with data analytics, the delay would be a much-needed breather. “Our resources are already stretched thin,” she said. “Moving the Stage 2 deadline would significantly help our provider community and may even encourage more providers to ‘stay the course’ with meaningful use.”

Some expressed a more neutral response to the CMS announcement.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s Chief Information Officer John Halamka, MD, said if the delay was ultimately finalized, it wouldn’t directly affect the hospital, as BIDMC is slated to certify their systems Dec. 9 and will attest in April following the January-March reporting period.

It does, however, “give us more flexibility as we try to balance resources among competing projects,” he said.

Moreover, there’s also the issue of product certification, Halamka pointed out in his Nov. 20 blog. Many Stage 1 products have not been certified for Stage 2, and the limited number of Stage 2 certified products has only recently been introduced into the industry, making full implementation a real challenge.

“I believe that we could see hundreds of hospitals fail to attest to meaningful use Stage 2 by the current deadline, despite their best efforts,” he wrote.

Other groups, such as HIMSS, have previously asked federal officials for a six month Stage 2 extension and thus are pleased with the announcement.

“HIMSS is gratified that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT have heard concerns from health stakeholders and extended meaningful use Stage 2 by one year,” said Thomas A. Leary, HIMSS vice president for government relations, in a press statement.

“This additional time to attest offers an opportunity for increased feedback and analysis on technology implementation, eClinical Quality Measure reporting, and progress toward interoperability that will enhance the ability of eligible hospitals and eligible professionals to meaningfully use health IT, and thus improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of patient care.”

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, which represents more than 1,400 CIOs across the country, also issued a statement.

“Following today’s announcement from CMS on shifting MU timelines, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives has confirmed with HHS officials that the proposed meaningful use Stage 2 extension / Stage 3 delay does not change front-end requirements for meaningful use in 2014 and does not afford much needed flexibility to providers working to install and upgrade new technology,” it read.

Both HIMSS and CHIME commented on Dec. 6. The next day, HIMSS added to its statement:”

After further analysis of the government’s decision to extend Meaningful Use Stage 2 through 2016, we believe our Call For Action to extend Year 1 of the Meaningful Use Stage 2 attestation period still needs to be addressed,” the organization said in a statement. “Given the challenges some providers, hospitals, and vendors are experiencing upgrading to the 2014 certification, we call on the government to address the timeline and allow at least 18 months in which Eligible Hospitals (EHs) and Eligible Providers (EPs) can attest to Meaningful Use requirements for one quarter.”

“The latest data from the more than 5,400 hospitals in the HIMSS Analytics database indicate clear challenges for eligible hospitals and tethered ambulatory care facilities preparing for Meaningful Use Stage 2,” the statement continues.

These data show that up to 72 percent of eligible hospitals and 44 percent of tethered ambulatory facilities have purchased the necessary software to attest to the 2014 Certification requirements.

“We continue to monitor the important issue of upgrades to the correct certified version,” the HIMSS statement read, “but are still concerned that many may still be waiting for the necessary upgrade to the certified version.”

HIMSS shared its position on extending the deadline for Meaningful Use Stage 2 attestation in an Aug. 15 letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius; Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner; and then-National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari, MD.

As of October 2013, 85 percent of eligible hospitals and more than 60 percent of eligible providers had received EHR incentive payments. Moreover, nine in 10 eligible hospitals and eight in 10 eligible professionals had taken the initial step of registering for the Medicare or Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs as of October 2013, according to CMS.

Article written by Erin McCann

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