CMS expected to release Stage 2 proposed rule Thursday

By Diana Manos
04:03 PM

Officials at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) are expected to present Thursday the notice of proposed rulemaking on meaningful use Stage 2 of the federal incentive plan for adopting electronic health records.

The new proposal for Stage 2 of the meaningful use of electronic health records would require healthcare entities to focus more on interoperability – to move from testing to doing actual exchange.

The general thrust of this next stage of meaningful use has been well publicized. Farzad Mostashari, MD, the national health IT coordinator, has said often that it would focus not just on collecting data but being able to exchange it with other providers to better coordinate a patient’s care to improve outcomes and to engage with patients and their families.

A number of early adopter physicians and hospitals began participating in 2011 in the first stage of meaningful use. As of December 2011, some 176,000 providers had registered for the meaningful use incentive program, according to CMS.

The most current information available from CMS shows the agency has paid out $3.2 billion to physicians and hospitals in incentive payments for all of 2011, with December contributing to the steep growth curve.

Final 2011 data won’t be available until early March because physicians can register and attest in the Medicare program until the end of February to receive payment for what is considered calendar 2011, according CMS.

Vendors and providers still have their work cut out for them to accomplish some meaningful use measures. The abilities of hospitals and physicians to enable patients to view and download their information and transmit summary of care records when patients move among care settings remain the most challenging, according to a recent report from IT vendor CSC.

In Stage 1, organizations could defer about half of the optional requirements. Providers in the first stage were most likely to defer requirements related to patient engagement and coordinating care because of the lack of operational readiness by the provider organization and vendor product readiness.

Yet these are among the capabilities recommended by the public/private Health IT Policy Committee, which advises the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT. Mostashari said last summer that Stage 2 would “look a lot like” those recommendations.