Healthcare Business News

Top healthcare groups petition HHS for meaningful-use extensions

By Rachel Landen
Posted: February 25, 2014 - 2:45 pm ET

Nearly 50 of the largest and most influential U.S. healthcare groups are asking HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for more time and flexibility to meet pending EHR meaningful-use requirements.

The group's letter to Sebelius highlights the role the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record Incentive Program is playing in the adoption of health information technology, but suggests that many providers are not prepared to meet the program's timeline. Eligible hospitals have until July 1 to demonstrate compliance with meaningful use; Oct. 1 is the deadline for eligible professionals.

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The letter asks that the deadline be extended to 2015 for providers to adopt, implement and train their staff on meaningful-use requirements, and that they be afforded flexibility in the assessment of their implementation.

Vendors have not kept up with the need to update software to the latest standards, clearly hindering providers from moving ahead, the groups contend.

“With only a fraction of 2011 Edition products currently certified to 2014 Edition standards, it is clear the pace and scope of change have outstripped the ability of vendors to support providers,” the letter states.

“Providers need adequate time to learn how to use the newly deployed technology, including examining staff assignments, workflows and practice process,” the letter said. “If providers move forward, as dictated by the current policy, our concerns regarding rushed implementations are heightened. Furthermore, we believe the 'all or nothing' approach—where missing a single objective by even a small amount results in failure for the program year—compounds our concerns.”

A recent study conducted by the American Medical Association and the RAND Corp. showed that many physicians are frustrated with their EHR systems and find the technology interferes with patient care. AMA President Dr. Ardis Dee Hoven suggests that physicians need more time to be properly trained and educated on EHR best practices to make the systems worthwhile.

“The AMA is increasingly alarmed that the meaningful-use program continues to move full steam ahead without regard to the challenges faced by physicians, hospitals and vendors during the past few years,” Hoven said in a release. “Continued difficulties experienced in the current program are a clear sign that federal requirements must be revised.”

The AMA is one of 48 organizations that signed the letter. Others include the American Health Information Management Association, College of Healthcare Information Management Executives and the American Hospital Association.

Follow Rachel Landen on Twitter: @MHrlanden

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