Health IT Groups Cautiously Praise Stage Meaningful Use Delay

Posted on by Frank J. Rosello

Information technology groups offered cautious praise to the CMS for extending Stage 2 of the electronic health record incentive payment program to three years and pushing back the start of Stage 3 until at least 2017. But they also asked for increased flexibility for healthcare providers.

The Chicago-based Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society said it was “gratified” that federal officials “have heard concerns from health stakeholders and extended meaningful use Stage 2 by one year.” But HIMSS also asked that the CMS extend the initial compliance period for organizations seeking to meet Stage 2 goals for the first time from a one-year time period to 18 months.

“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 HIMSS missive said.

Similarly, the American Medical Association, which has lobbied persistently to ease the timeline for meeting the requirements, called the delay a “welcome reprieve” for physicians and EHR vendors. But the AMA also said association remains “deeply concerned about the program’s current pass/fail approach to demonstrating meaningful use.”

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives said the plan that federal officials unveiled Friday “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.”

“With ICD-10 compliance coming into view, with HIPAA compliance demanding renewed attention and with all the activities associated with the Affordable Care Act converging in 2014, providers are nearing a breaking point,” said Russ Branzell, CEO of the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based professional association for chief information officers, in a news release.

“Flexibility of the kind announced today is beneficial for Stage 3,” Branzell said, “but Stage 2 start-date flexibility is needed to ensure long-term success.”

Elsewhere in its statement, CHIME urged the CMS to consider its previous recommendations “to give eligible hospitals and eligible professionals flexibility in meeting the start date of Stage 2. CHIME reiterates its belief that some providers will need an additional year to install, test, implement and operationalize the new certified EHR software.”

The National Partnership for Women & Families, however, called it “unfortunate” that Stage 3 will be delayed. The Washington-based advocacy group’s Vice President Christine Bechtel serves as a member of the Health Information Technology Policy Committee, a federal advisory committee.

“Patients and families deserve and will expect to see real results and accountability for this year of delay,” the group said.

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) also weighed in, saying “This announcement that cash-strapped doctors and hospitals will now have an extra year to meet costly and burdensome electronic health-records requirements is good news. The details of this proposed extension will matter, but this announcement is an important first step.”

HHS also announced that it intends to establish a new, more frequent and more communicative method for rolling out federal health IT testing and certification criteria under an incentive payment program created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Article written by Joseph Conn

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