EHR vendors lag in Stage 2 upgrades

Providers often left waiting for certified systems
By Frank Irving
10:50 AM
Man at laptop with tools
Attesting to Stage 2 meaningful use in 2014 may be difficult to come by for small and mid-sized provider groups, with one big reason being the electronic health record vendors' dilatory pace in actually upgrading their systems. 
"We've seen a ton of progress with EHR adoption since 2010," said Erin Dormaier, program manager for CFMC. "But this year the challenge is the 2014 upgrade."
CFMC is Colorado's Medicare Quality Improvement Organization and one of six subcontractors under CORHIO's Regional Extension Center grant. About 100 providers in 30 practices -- all in primary care, OB/GYN and pediatrics -- are actively working with CFMC to attain meaningful use.
Dormaier told Medical Practice Insider, Healthcare IT News' sister publication, that a "relatively popular" EHR vendor, whom she declined to name, won't have their 2014 upgrade available until June. That timeline will effectively prevent first-year attesting providers from meeting the Oct. 1 deadline.
Practices in such a situation would file a hardship extension with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which administers incentive payments under the MU program. An exemption category applies to eligible providers who are unable to implement meaningful use due to 2014 EHR certification delays.
"The key to getting the hardship exemption accepted -- and this comes from CMS -- is to submit as much documentation as you can," Dormaier added. "You need documentation from your vendor stating that they will not have the upgrade until a specified date."
Hardship exemptions must be filed by midnight on July 1.
Providers who want to learn more about Stage 2 challenges and opportunities can register for a free program titled "Beyond Stage One Meaningful Use," which will be held May 8 in Denver. Subject-matter authorities will present an overview of Stage 2 criteria and an in-depth discussion on clinical quality measures. A panel of experts, including Dormaier, will discuss regional and local initiatives and answer questions from attendees.
At a similar event held in March in Dover, Del., Beth Schindele, director of the Delaware Regional Extension Center, said that beyond vendor readiness another major challenge for providers in Stage 2 is explaining to patients how they can get access to their medical records through Blue Button technology.
"There is not going to be a grace period or delay," Schindele said. "There may be some exemptions, but we have to move forward with the expectation of achieving Stage 2 meaningful use because it is critically important to patient care."
This story first appeared in Medical Practice Insider here
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