AMA urges hitting Stage 3 pause button

Third phase of meaningful use program just not ready for prime time, AMA submits
By Bernie Monegain
10:32 AM
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AMA headquarters

The American Medical Association and 41 medical societies today urged the government to hit the pause button on Stage 3 meaningful use, the final stage of the program.

The missive from AMA follows a call for a delay Thursday from Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, or HELP. Alexander proposed postponing Stage 3 until Jan. 1, 2017.

"Patients need an interoperable system that enables doctors and hospitals to share their electronic health records, but the government, doctors and hospitals need time to do it right," Alexander wrote in his press statement calling for a delay.

[Related: How does your EHR stack up? See our 2015 satisfaction survey results.]

"There is growing bipartisan recognition in Congress that the direction of the meaningful use program needs to be reassessed in light of usability and interoperability challenges with electronic health record systems," said AMA President Steven J. Stack, MD, in a letter delivered today to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and Budget Director Shaun Donovan. "Poorly performing systems that do not facilitate the seamless exchange of data would severely undermine the ability of the health system to support the implementation of the payment reforms outlined in MACRA," AMA added, referring to the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015.

The pressure for postponement of Stage 3 comes at a time when the proposed rules have reached the Office of Management and Budget for review and finalization.

In their letters to HHS, AMA and the medical societies stressed that the proposed Stage 3 regulation was developed prior to and without consideration of the changes enacted by MACRA. Given the vital role of the meaningful use program in the reformed payment systems introduced by MACRA, proceeding with the proposed Stage 3 rules threatens to impede the healthcare delivery innovations Congress sought to promote when it passed the law, they argue.

[See also: The good, the bad and the ugly of Stage 3 MU.]

"Poorly performing systems that do not facilitate the seamless exchange of data would severely undermine the ability of the health system to support the implementation of the payment reforms outlined in MACRA."

As those pressing for the delay see it, postponing Stage 3 would provide the opportunity to evaluate the environment and work with the administration to implement the needed changes to the meaningful use program that are currently under consideration.

"The AMA wants the meaningful use program to succeed," said Stack. "Pausing to reassess Stage 3 rules will not stop or delay progress with EHRs. On the contrary, we firmly believe a temporary period of reevaluation will help move the program forward and drive innovation and adoption."