Fed advisors tackle Stage 2 recs and timing

By Diana Manos
10:11 AM

The Meaningful Use Workgroup of the HIT Policy Committee met Tuesday to continue the arduous task of deciding what to recommend for inclusion in meaningful use Stage 2 criteria, and the pace for requiring them.

Paul Tang, from the Palo Alto Medical Center, chair of the group, said the discussion would be a prelude to the in-person meeting to be held April 5 for the entire HIT Policy Committee. Shortly after May 13, the workgroup is expected to deliver its formal recommendations on Meaningful Use Stage 2 to the committee, he said.
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology called for public comments on proposed measures for Meaningful Use 2 and 3 last December. According to Tang, the comments fell mainly into two camps. Vendors and providers urged a delay in Stage 2 implementation, while consumers, purchasers, health plans and HIT advocates pressed for the current time-line. As planned, providers would begin collecting data in 2012 to be paid bonuses in 2013.

[See also: Blumenthal: Stage 2 meaningful use on track.]

Workgroup member Neil Calman, from the Institute for Family Health said he hopes the group won't operate "in political mode," making its recommendations based solely on how many letters it received from both sides.

"The people on this committee believe in health IT and its value, have experience with it and live it," he said. "Our natural predilection would be to push things forward and see the country make progress in this area. I'm interested in what pieces of the 'slow down' we need to pay attention to."

[See also: Meaningful use work looks to PCAST exchange goals.]

A report on the comments will be issued the last week of April, Tang said. But in the meantime, he proposed some ideas for slowing down Stage 2 within the confines of the HITECH Act. One would be to make providers collect data for only three months, instead of a year. This would allow vendors and providers more time to prepare for Stage 2. Other ideas included delaying the threshold for meeting certain Stage 1 requirements, or raising the threshold of data measures required under Stage 2, without adding any new functionalities.

Workgroup member Charlene Underwood, from Siemens, said standards don't exist for some of the proposed Stage 2 criteria. "Work needs to be done to agree on standards, if we want to move forward," she said.