Support Grows for Stage 2 Meaningful Use Deadline Extension

Physicians and practices that implement electronic health records (EHR) in their offices and can demonstrate Meaningful Use before 2015 will be eligible for annual cash incentives. Designed to bring the medical industry into the digital age, the EHR Incentive Program has already significantly increased the number of physicians and practices that are using electronic records. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported in June 2013 that more than 269,000 Medicare Eligible Professionals (EPs) and over 131,000 Medicaid Eligible Professionals had registered for the EHR Incentive Program. Unfortunately, many of these professionals fear they’ll be unable to satisfy Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements by the current deadline, which begins in about three months.

Many hospitals anticipate being able to qualify for these financial incentives. A Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) report on Stage 2 Meaningful Use hospital readiness found that 68 percent of eligible hospitals had already purchased software from a 2014 certified vendor. Overall, 75 percent of hospitals anticipate being able to qualify for these incentives in 2014. While larger hospitals are optimistic about their ability to meet this critical deadline, many vendors and physicians have requested an extension:

  • July 24: During a meeting held by the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Finance (CMF), Dr. John Glaser, CEO of Siemens Healthcare, asked the CMF to reassess the Stage 2 requirements and delay Stage 2 until October 1, 2015.
  • August 7: The American Academy of Family Physicians wrote a letter to the CMF asking for a one-year extension for the Stage 2 timeline.
  • August 15: HIMSS sent a letter to CMS requesting an 18-month extension to the program’s attestation period.

The CMS is aware of the requests for a deadline extension and is now debating the matter internally. Robert Tagalicod, the director of the CMS Office of E-Health Standards and Services, told InformationWeek Healthcare, “There already is talk about the market weaning itself [from Meaningful Use].” He went on to acknowledge that some vendors are considering abandoning Meaningful Use because they aren’t going to be ready for Stage 2.

“There has been talk about extending—and do we have the authority—in terms of extending reporting periods for stage 2,” Tagalicod said. “. . . We’re still open to looking at [that], in light of the other things that lie ahead, such as Meaningful Use and ICD-10, and looking at our time frames.”

While Tagalicod didn’t commit to a deadline extension just yet, it’s good to know that CMS is aware of the problem and evaluating its options. Now is not the time to abandon Meaningful Use.

 

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