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Karen DeSalvo, director of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT
DeSalvo

DeSalvo says providers, hospitals on track for EHR Stage 2


By Darius Tahir
Posted: August 4, 2014 - 2:00 pm ET
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Karen DeSalvo, looking beyond current data, said she's confident hospitals and providers are on track to meet current deadlines to attest to being ready for the second stage of the electronic health-record incentive program.

“We know from past experience with meaningful-use Stage 1, for example, that people wait to attest until the eleventh hour,” said DeSalvo, the director of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT. While she allowed that it was too early to know for sure, “It seems on track with where we expect it to be, and we're watching it closely: staying personally connected, to listen to folks, to understand how we can share best practices.”

The most recent numbers, as of July 1, show 972 eligible providers and 10 eligible hospitals attesting to Stage 2.

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DeSalvo has been barnstorming the country to listen to providers and relay information. More education is needed, such as helping providers fill out the proper fields for a particular format, for example. Or in getting patients signed up and engaged with the EHR, particularly with the secure messaging or view, download and transmit requirements.

That's why DeSalvo disagrees with critics who have charged that the difficulties providers have had in transition from the less-intensive Stage 1 to the more-intensive Stage 2 is indicative of a problem in the program.

“Sometimes providers need more time to optimize and have a chance to know all the functionalities that their system has. And that doesn't necessarily happen overnight,” she said. The agency is hoping to improve its certification processes, but some of the transition pains are simply the market working, she suggested.

“It may very well be that some providers will decide the product they started with isn't the one they want to stick with, which I think is—in any kind of technological marketplace—going to be true,” she said. “We went through it with TVs and phones; this one is just a really important, high-stakes (area) of our lives, which is health.”

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. Both the American Medical Association and the Medical Group Management Association have called on the CMS and HHS to add even more flexibility to the program for Stage 2 and beyond.

A full interview with DeSalvo will be featured in an upcoming issue of Modern Healthcare magazine.

Follow Darius Tahir on Twitter: @dariustahir


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