A work group of the federally chartered Health Information Technology Policy Committee is calling for a one-year delay in the scheduled implementation of Stage 2 meaningful-use criteria for healthcare organizations that will comply with the Stage 1 requirements this year.
Meaningful-use work group recommends extra time for Stage 2
In a 12-page draft letter (PDF) to Dr. Farzad Mostashari, head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and chairman of the Health IT Policy Committee, the meaningful use work group states that sticking to the original timeline of implementing Stage 2 by 2013 "poses a nearly insurmountable timing challenge for those who attest to meaningful use in 2011."
Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, hospitals, office-based physicians and other eligible professionals can receive federal incentive payments if they demonstrate that they are meaningfully using certified electronic health-record systems according to federal criteria. Hospitals and eligible professionals began receiving payments from the program this year under Stage 1 criteria.
In the letter, the work group supports the original concept of an "escalator" in the criteria for Stage 2 to ensure that "the (meaningful use) bar continues to rise over time in order for the country to realize the full benefits of health IT and to support the information needs of health reform.”
But the escalator's pace and the speed with which the industry can adapt to new criteria became an issue, according to the work group. The group's final Stage 2 recommendations were based on seven public hearings, testimony from nearly 100 people and 422 submissions of public comments.
A June 2012 release of the final Stage 2 criteria "would require EHR vendors to design, develop and release new functionality and eligible hospitals to upgrade, implement and begin using the new functionality by the beginning of the reporting year in October of 2012," according to the letter. "After careful consideration of the trade-offs between the urgency with which new functionality is needed and the ability to safely deliver and to effectively use the new functionality, the (committee) recommends that—only for those who begin to attest to (meaningful use) in 2011—an extra year be provided to phase in the Stage 2 expectations (2014). Those who attest to Stage 1 for the first time in 2012 would continue to have the same expectation (2014) for meeting the Stage 2 criteria."
The Health IT Policy Committee, which is meeting in Washington today, can accept, reject or amend the work group's recommendations. From there, Stage 2 recommendations go to Mostashari and then to the CMS for proposed and final rulemaking.
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.