CIO confidence about meaningful use inches up

By Bernie Monegain
09:56 AM

Some 26 percent of CIOs say their organizations have qualified to receive stimulus funding under the HITECH Act, and others expect to qualify in ensuing years, according to a recent survey from the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME).

Though worries remain, the respondents indicated more confidence than in a survey in March about being able to meet Stage 1 eligibility. The major concern centers on capturing and reporting quality measures, according to the survey.

Of all respondents, 13 percent say their organizations have received funding in the first year of the program, which began Oct. 1, 2010. The majority of those healthcare organizations have collected funding from their states’ Medicaid programs, while 4 percent of all respondents indicated they had received payments under the Medicare program.

CHIME members responded to the Internet-based survey in mid-September. Respondents – 198 in all  – from both multi-hospital systems and stand-alone community hospitals, represent 656 hospitals, or about 13 percent of the nation’s facilities. CHIME has 1,400 CIO members.

Survey reflects optimism
Respondents were optimistic about their chances of qualifying for stimulus funds in Stage 1. About two-thirds (68 percent) say they expect to qualify for stimulus funding for Stage 1 of the program, but not until federal fiscal year 2012 (which ends September 30, 2012) or fiscal year 2013. That compares with 58 percent who anticipated qualifying during that period in CHIME’s March 2011 survey.

About 93 percent of CIOs expect their organizations to achieve the meaningful use of electronic health records and incentive funding for Stage 1 during the first three years of the program.

More than half of all respondents said their organizations have registered for the stimulus funding program, a precursor for attesting that meaningful use objectives have been achieved and qualifying to receive funds. By contrast, only 15 percent of facilities had registered in March, when CHIME conducted its previous survey on meaningful use

Concerns evolve
CIOs’ concerns continue to evolve as the funding program completed its first year. For example, nearly two-thirds (66 percent) of respondents still have concerns related to meeting meaningful use requirements; down significantly from the nearly 90 percent of respondents who said they had such concerns in March. Capturing and submitting data for quality measures remains the most frequently cited concern of CIOs.

Organizations that have qualified for stimulus funding also expressed concerns about the uncertainty over time delays in receiving payments after they have successfully attested to achieving meaningful use of electronic health records.

For example, Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis is still awaiting payment through the program after attesting on August 18, said Joanne Sunquist, its CIO, who added that payments generally have been received by other facilities six to eight weeks after facilities have attested. “It would be nice to know, because any time you’re looking for government money for anything, cash flow is often uncertain,” she said.

Medical Center Health System in Odessa, Texas, received payment through the Texas Medicaid program in August, said CIO Gary Barnes. Better communication about the program is essential in helping healthcare organizations gain access to funding, he said, adding, “the $1.5 million in stimulus payments are critical to Medical Center Health System, and are actually important in helping us to operate in the black.”

Other survey findings include:

  • Respondents appear to be settling into their implementation strategies to achieve the meaningful use of electronic health records. Some 58 percent now say their current IT strategy and existing applications will enable their organizations to qualify for meaningful use, compared with 40 percent in March.
  • Respondents believe a delay in the beginning of Stage 2 of the meaningful use program would increase their likelihood of qualifying for stimulus funding in that phase. Some 25 percent of respondents said they hope to achieve Stage 2 meaningful use objectives, but only if there is a delay in the original start date of October 1, 2012. Some 32 percent said they expect their organizations to achieve Stage 2 objectives, with or without a delay; and 35 percent said they couldn’t make a prediction at this time.
  • Some 34 percent of respondents said they had lingering questions about the program. Many of those questions revolve around whether funding for the program will be maintained despite the changing political winds in Washington and in the face of budget cuts anticipated to achieve reductions in the federal budget deficit.

Access a copy of a report on the latest CHIME survey here.