Hospitals are further along in upgrading their electronic health-record systems to where they need to be than had seemed possible only a month ago, according to new data from the CMS.
After getting off to a sputtering start, nearly 3,700 hospitals have attested to meeting the program's meaningful-use requirements through Dec. 1 this year. More are expected to attest as the filing period draws to a close at the end of this month, Elisabeth Myers, of CMS' office of e-health standards and services, said in a report to the federally chartered Health Information Technology Policy Committee.
Most significantly, 1,681 of those eligible hospitals have attested this year to the Stage 2 standards, double the number of hospitals that had attested to Stage 2 through Nov. 1, 2014, and a quantum leap from the 10 hospitals that had attested to Stage 2 through July 1.
The payment year under the EHR incentive payment program for hospitals ended with the federal fiscal year Sept. 30, 2014, but the CMS extended the reporting deadline for hospital attestations until the end of the December, so, “We are expecting more to come in by the end of the year, given that extended attestation period,” Myers said. “But we are encouraged to see this number.”
About 2,500 hospitals were expected to be required to step up to Stage 2 this year after meeting Stage 1 meaningful-use criteria in the first two payment years of the program, 2011 and 2012. A number of hospitals may still seek hardship exemptions from the Stage 2 requirements, which would give them one more year at Stage 1, Myers said.
The CMS previously estimated a total of 5,011 hospitals are eligible to participate in the EHR incentive payment program overall.
Earlier this year, a specific hardship exemption was granted to program participants—hospitals and physicians and other eligible professionals—because software developers fell behind on incorporating needed changes in their EHR systems for Stage 2. The delays left a number of providers with insufficient time to implement their systems and prepare for the more stringent requirements of Stage 2.
Stage 2 attestations by physicians and other eligible professionals also increased markedly from Nov. 1 to Dec. 1, up 43% to 16,455, the CMS data shows. But by Dec. 1, these Stage 2 attestations remained but a small fraction—not quite 10%—of the estimated 168,000 providers that had completed Stage 1 requirements in 2011 and 2012 and would have been required to step up to Stage 2 before the hardship extensions were granted by CMS earlier this year.
Physicians and other EPs have until Dec. 31 to meet their meaningful-use requirements and two more months to file their attestations.
“Until the end of February, when those EPs finish their attestation and have finished submitting their data, we won't know who has done what,” Myers said.
About 527,200 physicians and other EPs are eligible to receive EHR incentive payments under the program created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The program has paid $25.8 billion thus far, with nearly $15.5 billion going to hospitals.
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