Friday, January 25, 2013

Groups want a Delay in Meaningful Use Stage 3

The comment period on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)’s proposed rule for electronic health record (EHR) “meaningful use” Stage 3 policy closed last Monday with over 500 comments left online.

Stage 3 is the last step in a program designed to give incentive payments through Medicare and Medicaid to clinicians and hospitals that use electronic health records in a meaningful way. The program defines “Meaningful Use” as implementing a system that significantly improves clinical care, and was passed into law in the 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) bill.

Many of the major medical groups that commented on the proposed rule asked for a delay in the implementation of Stage 3. They claim that providers are still trying to implement the first two stages of the program, which aimed to capture, and then share data to advance clinical progress. The third stage aims to improve the clinical outcomes through EHRs. The stage is currently scheduled to begin in 2016.

Providers are currently working towards completion of Stage 2, which needs to be done by October 1st of next year to avoid a 1% Medicare cut penalty.

Organizations such as the American Medical Association (AMA), American College of Physicians, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and others all made different arguments for delayed implementation of Stage 3. The AMA argued that more time was needed due to unanticipated challenges in EHR system implementation, while The American College of Physicians objected to the fact that the goals were not tied enough to patient outcomes. AAMC suggested a middle road approach, they suggested putting goals in place as a motivation for physicians, but that the timeline be implemented slowly. They also suggested that HHS exempt physicians from penalties when they meet most of the goals, even if they don’t meet them all.

With the comment period closed, HHS will now develop a final rule governing Stage 3. The rule should be released later this year.

View the whole article from MedPage Today here.

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