Healthcare Business News

HHS extends a meaningful-use deadline

By Joseph Conn
Posted: November 30, 2011 - 1:45 pm ET

HHS has extended until 2014 the compliance date for Stage 2 meaningful use for those hospitals, physicians and other eligible professionals that qualify as Stage 1 meaningful users in 2011.

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The announced rollback came in an HHS news release about a visit today by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland to discuss health information technology's role in job creation.

Under the current rules for the Medicare portion of the electronic health-record system incentive program created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, hospitals, doctors and other eligible professionals who qualified for incentive payments as Stage 1 meaningful users in 2011—the program's first year—would have to meet new and expectedly more stringent Stage 2 standards in 2013.

But according to HHS' statement, if those providers had delayed participation until 2012, "they could wait to meet these new (Stage 2) standards until 2014 and still be eligible for the same incentive payment."

The fast pace of changing stages and the assumed-to-be escalating meaningful-use criteria still being developed for Stage 2 have been deemed by critics as disincentives for early program participation .

"To encourage faster adoption," according to the release, "the secretary announced that HHS intends to allow doctors and hospitals to adopt health IT this year, without meeting the new standards until 2014. Doctors who act quickly can also qualify for incentive payments in 2011 as well as 2012."

In May, a work group of the federally chartered Health Information Technology Policy Committee recommended that the CMS extend the compliance deadline by one year for these first-year meaningful users. The recommendation was subsequently adopted by the committee and supported by Dr. Farzad Mostashari, head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS, who reports to Sebelius.

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