HHS extends MU Stage 2 deadline to spur faster EMR adoption

Doctors’ adoption of health information technology doubled in two years, according to a new report, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius released Wednesday. Sebelius also announced extension of the meaningful use qualification date to 2014.

To encourage faster adoption, Sebelius  announced that HHS intends to allow doctors and hospitals to adopt health IT this year, without meeting the new standards until 2014. Doctors who act quickly can also qualify for incentive payments in 2011 as well as 2012.

“When doctors and hospitals use health IT, patients get better care and we save money,” said Sebelius.“We’re making great progress, but we can’t wait to do more. Too many doctors and hospitals are still using the same record-keeping technology as Hippocrates.Today, we are making it easier for healthcare providers to use new technology to improve the healthcare system for all of us and create more jobs.”

In addition to improving the healthcare system, data indicate that the national transition to health IT is creating jobs. More than 50,000 health IT-related jobs have been created since the enactment of the HITECH Act, Sebelius said.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of health IT jobs across the country is expected to increase by 20 percent from 2008 to 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations through 2018.

Sebelius promised  greater outreach efforts that would provide more information to doctors and hospitals about best practices and to vendors whose products enable healthcare providers to meaningfully use EHRs. For example, in communities across the country HHS will target outreach, education and training to Medicare eligible professionals that have registered in the EHR incentive program but have not yet met the requirements for meaningful use. Meaningful use is the necessary foundation for all impending payment changes involving patient-centered medical homes, accountable care organizations, bundled payments, and value-based purchasing.

These efforts will complement existing outreach efforts to doctors and hospitals including the Obama Administration’s work to create a nationwide network of 62 Regional Extension Centers.  The extension centers are comprised of local nonprofits that provide guidance and resources to help eligible health care providers participate in the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs and meaningfully use health IT.

[See also: HHS aims to spur software apps development.]