Despite uptick, MU numbers underwhelm

Many hospitals could be facing Medicare penalties come 2015
By Erin McCann
10:55 AM
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As the Stage 2 meaningful use numbers continue to underwhelm -- with only a paltry number of hospitals attesting thus far -- U.S. hospitals could be in for some serious Medicare penalties this year, new research points out. 
 
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan School of Information and Public Health and published today in Health Affairs, sheds light on the large number of hospitals that have thus far failed to meet Stage 2 criteria and could be hit with financial penalties come January 2015 if they bill the Medicare program. 
 
After analyzing data from late last year, officials found only 5.8 percent of hospitals participating were slated to be ready with the 16 core objectives in Stage 2. And, as of Aug. 1, only 78 hospitals had attested to Stage 2, according to CMS data, up from 10 hospitals one month ago. 

 
"There was likely a big scramble before the deadline, but my sense is that it would have been hard for a lot of those hospitals to meet that deadline," said Julia Adler-Milstein, assistant professor in the University of Michigan School of Information who co-led the research, in a statement. 
 
Many hospitals, as Adler-Milstein and her colleagues pointed out, are still struggling with care summaries and patient access to their medical records. For patient access, a hospital must provide patient admission data to more than 50 percent of its inpatient and emergency department patients. Moreover, 5 percent of those must view/download or transmit the data to a third party for a hospital to successfully meet the requirement. 
 
Despite the low numbers, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT put out a press release highlighting the nearly 60 percent of hospitals that have adopted an electronic health record system with some advanced capabilities last year. Nearly half of all eligible physicians reported adopting an EHR with these capabilities in 2013.
 
 
"Patients are seeing the benefits of health IT as a result of the significant strides that have been made in the adoption and meaningful use of electronic health records," said Karen DeSalvo, MD, national coordinator for health information technology, in an Aug. 7 statement. "We look forward to working with our partners to ensure that people’s digital health information follows them across the care continuum so it will be there when it matters most."
 
To date, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has paid out more than $24 billion to eligible providers and hospitals that have attested to meaningful use.