Staring Down Meaningful Use Stage 2 in 2013

Healthcare organizations around the country have been working diligently to implement electronic health record (EHR) technology and attest for meaningful use (MU)—the federal government’s standards that allow eligible providers and hospitals to earn incentive payments if they meet specific criteria. The MU effort is divided into stages with each stage requiring organizations to meet more stringent criteria.

As Stage 1 MU draws to a close, there are some key points of difference to consider when preparing for Stage 2.

•    Compliance percentages for Stage 1 are increasing significantly for Stage 2. It’s no longer enough to get your feet wet with EHR technology; you have to demonstrate more consistent use. For example, both Stage 1 and 2 MU criteria require organizations to record changes in vital signs. However, Stage 1 MU requires organizations to report blood pressure, height and weight as structured data for more than 50 percent of patients. Stage 2 requires such reporting for more than 80 percent of patients, demonstrating that the organization is continuing to improve on its ability to capture critical information.

•    Health information exchange (HIE) requirements are also increasing. For Stage 1 MU, organizations only had to attest that they tried to achieve health information exchange. In Stage 2 MU, they must be able to successfully exchange information consistently while maintaining patient privacy.

•    Efforts to empower and engage patients are also more prominent in Stage 2. In Stage 1 MU, providers had limited responsibility for sharing documents electronically with patients. However, in Stage 2 MU, physicians are not only required to share documents electronically but they must share them using specific delivery methods (email or a patient portal).

Of these changes, the second and third will present the most challenges for healthcare organizations and their information technology departments. The increase in HIE requirements will be complicated by the fact that there currently are not clear data standards in the marketplace to support smooth and comprehensive data exchange. Different technology systems still require different connection methods, and until that changes, interoperability will remain a potential stumbling block for compliance.

Meeting the new patient engagement requirements will necessitate a culture change for many organizations in addition to a technology upgrade. Organizations will need to shift their thought process focusing on just delivering care to patients to collaborating with patients to manage and deliver their care.

Once your organization has educated itself on the new requirements, it should take additional steps to lay the groundwork for attestation efforts. Some key activities include the following: