Poor MU showing renews calls for change

'These numbers continue to underscore the need for a sensible glide-path in 2015'
By Mike Miliard
10:22 AM
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A fresh batch of disheartening Stage 2 attestation numbers has prompted several industry groups to once again implore the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to shorten the meaningful use reporting period in 2015.

[See also: CHIME sees 'troubling' signals for MU]

Officials from the AMA, CHIME, HIMSS and MGMA said in a joint press release that the numbers are "disappointing, yet predictable," and reiterated their calls for CMS to offer more leniency to help address providers' widespread difficulty in meeting federal electronic health record requirements.

CMS numbers released Nov. 4 show that fewer than 17 percent of U.S. hospitals have demonstrated Stage 2 capabilities. Even worse, fewer than 38 percent of eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals have met either stage of meaningful use in 2014. The data suggest inherent difficulty in the program, and suggest that these travails will only continue in 2015, according to industry groups.

[See also: Practices buried under MU 'avalanche']

As for eligible professionals, just 2 percent have managed to meet Stage 2 so far, and it seems unlikely that very many more will have reached that threshold by the Feb. 28, 2015, attestation deadline.

"Meaningful use participation data released today have validated the concerns of providers and IT leaders," said CHIME President and CEO Russell P. Branzell, in a statement on Tuesday. "These numbers continue to underscore the need for a sensible glide-path in 2015.

"Providers have struggled mightily in 2014, in many instances for reasons beyond their control," he added. "If nothing is done to help them get back on track in 2015, we will continue to see growing dissatisfaction with EHRs and disenchantment with meaningful use."

CMS data required by Congress indicate that more than 3,900 hospitals must meet Stage 2 measures and objectives in 2015 and more than 260,000 eligible professionals will need to be similarly positioned by Jan. 1, 2015, the industry groups point out.

"The low number of EP attestations to date is clear evidence that physician practices and their vendor partners have faced significant challenges in meeting the more onerous Stage 2 requirements of meaningful use," said Anders M. Gilberg, Senior Vice President, government affairs, MGMA.

Given the disappointing numbers so far, and the "tremendous number of providers required, but likely unable to fulfill, Stage 2 for a full 365-days in 2015," these varied stakeholders have asked CMS numerous times for a shortened, 90-day reporting period in 2015.

"Shortening the reporting period in 2015 is a much needed change if the program is to remain viable and is a critical step if the nation is to continue making progress toward the goal of interoperability," said Gilberg.

"We're focused on transforming health and healthcare," said Carla Smith, executive vice president of HIMSS, in a statement. "Meaningful use Stage 2 and 2014 certified EHR technology are important drivers toward that outcome."

But if CMS continues to hold fast on a full-year of reporting data for 2015, she said, "we anticipate that large segments of providers will no longer be able to participate in the program – which hinders our nation's ability to improve the quality, safety, cost-effectiveness, and access to care."

CHIME, HIMSS, et al. suggest a shortened reporting period will "have a dramatically positive effect on program participation and policy outcomes" sought in in the coming year

Moreover, giving flexibility, especially around problematic measures such as transitions of care and view/download/transmit would also help greatly, they say.

"In addition to a shortened reporting period, CMS must end its one-size-fits all approach to achieve the goals of the meaningful use program, which are to create a secure and interoperable infrastructure," said AMA President Elect Steven J. Stack, MD. "We believe the stringent pass fail requirements for meeting meaningful use, combined with a tsunami of other overlapping regulations, are keeping physicians from participating in the meaningful use program."

[See also: Tips to help CIOs 'survive the madness']