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Nation’s Providers Recommend More Time, Flexibility on MU Progress

February 24, 2014

In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) and 47 other health care provider organizations called for additional time and flexibility in the Meaningful Use program to ensure its continued success.

While underscoring the Meaningful Use program’s invaluable role in advancing technology adoption among hospitals and physicians, the letter states that strict adherence to current program requirements endangers overall success of the EHR program, disrupts providers’ health care operations and potentially jeopardizes patient safety.

RBranzellGiven that we have just celebrated the anniversary of HITECH, we can look back at the last five years with great pride and take stock of how far we’ve come – as an industry and as a nation,” said CHIME President and CEO Russell P. Branzell FCHIME, CHCIO. “But we must look ahead and recognize the immense work in front of us. Now is the time to make much-needed course corrections to ensure that we continue this success well past HITECH’s tenth anniversary.”

The letter reiterates many points made by several organizations dating back to May 2013, including letters from CHIME; the American Hospital Association (AHA); the American Medical Association (AMA); the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA); the American College of Physicians (ACP); the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP); and the National Rural Health Association (NRHA).

The latest letter, the first to be issued jointly by more than 40 organizations, comes in response to concerns that the nation’s 5,000 hospitals and 550,000 eligible professionals must adopt the latest certified versions of electronic health records and meet more difficult program requirements to remain in compliance with the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record Incentive Program. Hospitals only have until July to adopt, implement, test and train staff to meet either Stage 1 or Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements in 2014. Eligible professionals have until October to begin collecting data to attest to meeting program requirements.

“Failure to do so will not only result in a loss of incentive payments, but also the imposition of significant penalties,” the letter states, adding that, “it is clear the pace and scope of change have outstripped the ability of vendors to support providers.

“Providers need adequate time to learn how to use the newly deployed technology,” the letter said, noting that implementing EHRs has wide implications for staffing, workflow and care delivery practices. “If providers move forward, as dictated by the current policy, our concerns regarding rushed implementations are heightened. Furthermore, we believe that an ‘all or nothing’ approach – where missing a single objective by even a small amount results in failure for the program year – compounds our concerns.”

The current structure of the system essentially leaves providers with two options, said Branzell. “Providers will either abandon any hope of meeting Meaningful Use criteria this year, or they’ll be forced to implement a system more rapidly than they would otherwise. The first option works against everything the federal program has sought to achieve over the first two years, while the second option is inefficient and endangers patient safety.”

The letter seeks an extension through 2015 for providers to implement 2014 Edition Certified EHR software, and meet program requirements for either Stage 1 or Stage 2. It also requests flexibility in the scorecard used to assess completion of meaningful use requirements to enable as many providers as possible to successfully meet program requirements.

CHIME Board Chairman Randy McCleese FCHIME, CHCIO, Vice President of IS and CIO at St. Claire Regional Medical Center in Kentucky, noted that providers will begin to see penalties – reductions in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements – beginning in 2014 if they don not meet program requirements. “The country won’t be able to achieve important health reform efforts without support from information systems, and given current obstacles faced by providers in implementing this crucial technology, we must make a substantive course correction,” he said.


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