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Stage 2 meaningful use near 1,000 for eligible professionals, but hospitals lag badly


By Joseph Conn
Posted: July 8, 2014 - 1:00 pm ET
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Nearly 1,000 physicians and other eligible professionals have attested this year to meeting the more stringent Stage 2 meaningful-use requirements under the federal electronic health-record incentive payment program, but only 10 hospitals have done so through the first half of their program year.

The numbers, through July 1, were presented Tuesday at the federally chartered Health Information Technology Policy Committee meeting. The committee advises the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology on policy matters, including setting meaningful-use criteria for the program created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

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Elisabeth Myers of the CMS' office of e-health standards and services reported that 973 physicians and other eligible professionals have attested to Stage 2 this far for the calendar year 2014. That number accounts only for the first three months of the year, however, since the program requires participants to achieve 90 consecutive days of meaningful use beginning on the first day of a calendar quarter. Attestations for the second quarter of 2014 were not included in Myers' data.

Athenahealth, Epic Systems Corp. and Practice Fusion were among the leaders of only eight EHR vendors whose EP clients have attested for Stage 2 through May 2014, according to a companion presentation by Jennifer King, chief of research and evaluation in the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Analysis at HHS' Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

For hospitals, the meaningful-use clock started on Oct. 1, 2013, since the payment year for hospitals coincides with the federal fiscal year. As a result, hospital data covers the first two quarters of the hospital EHR incentive payment program.

Five vendors had hospital clients reach Stage 2 through May, with Cerner Corp., CPSI and Meditech leading, King said.

The program has paid out $24.4 billion through May, according to the latest data from the CMS (PDF).

The policy committee also heard from two health IT leaders whose hospitals had either achieved or would soon attest to having met Stage 2 criteria.

Of all the Stage 2 requirements, meeting the patient engagement criteria was the biggest challenge faced by DuBois (Penn.) Regional Medical Center, the first hospital to attest to Stage 2, said Tom Johnson, its CIO.

The center initially asked its nursing staff to encourage patients to sign up for a patient portal to meet the new Stage 2 requirement that patients view, download and share their health records, Johnson said. But the center scrapped that approach in favor of hiring a full-time LPN to visit with every patient while they are still in the hospital, encouraging them to log into to the system and look up their lab results, he explained.

“We only got 7% of our patients enrolled to be interested in it,” Johnson said. The Stage 2 requirement is that more than 5% of all patients who are discharged from the inpatient or emergency department view, download or transmit their medical records to a third party.

The population in the central Pennsylvania community is stable. As a result, demand for copies of records is limited, he said.

Paul Merrywell, vice president and chief information officer of Mountain States Health Alliance, Johnson City, Tenn., said two of his 14 hospitals will attest for Stage 2 in a few days. Pacing has been a struggle, he said. Despite entering into its fourth year of operation with the EHR incentive payment program, “I sense a true lack of readiness by the vendor community and their customers. There is still a sense that this is temporary.”

His organization tried to incorporate meaningful use into all of its processes, Merrywell said, but acceptance is still mixed among some of its 400 physicians who practice in 90 clinics. “Some are superstar performers,” he said, but others are the opposite.

The CMS released a proposed rule in May that would provide waivers to some providers scheduled to meet Stage 2 requirements, in part, to address vendor delays in providing software to their provider clients.

Follow Joseph Conn on Twitter: @MHJConn


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