HIT Policy Committee recommends delay for Stage 2 MU

By Diana Manos
12:11 PM

WASHINGTON – The Health IT Policy Committee, the advisory panel to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), voted June 8 to recommend delaying the start of Stage 2 of meaningful use until 2014.
Stage 2 was expected to begin in 2013, requiring steeper qualifications and proof from providers that they’ve meaningfully used EHRs to earn incentives under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The delay proposal would give vendors more time to update the advanced technology needed and providers more time to learn to use it.
Paul Tang, MD, chair of the committee's Meaningful Use Workgroup, and vice president and CIO at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, said the group's recommendations are merely advice. The federal government will ultimately decide on the timing and criteria of Stage 2.
The workgroup considers the recommendation as a compromise because it will only affect providers who begin the meaningful use process in 2011.
The option would give other providers a third year in which to qualify for Stage 1 incentives instead of two years, and would potentially attract more providers to participate because they would have more time, Tang said.
CMS is expected to release the final rule for Stage 2 of meaningful use next summer.
In addition to wanting more time to prepare technically, some have argued the government should first assess the success of meaningful use Stage 1. The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) believes that it would not be prudent to move to Stage 2 until about 30 percent of providers can demonstrate meaningful use of EHRs under Stage 1.
"We believe this approach would strike a reasonable balance between the desire to push EHR adoption and MU as quickly as possible, and the recognition that unreasonable expectations could end up discouraging EHR adoption if providers conclude that it will be essentially impossible for them to qualify for incentives,” CHIME told ONC in a comment letter.
Neil Calman, MD, president and CEO of the Institute for Family Health, an HIT Policy Committte member, is keen on moving forward as planned. "This program is not a subsidy program,” he said. “We have a responsibility to use these funds as incentive dollars. If we're not accelerating the process, then we don't need to put all these dollars on the table.”