Panel begins work on Stages 2 and 3 of meaningful use requirements

By Diana Manos
10:30 AM

The Health IT Policy Committee, a federal advisory group, has begun work on developing the meaningful use requirements for Stages 2 and 3 of the federal Medicare and Medicaid healthcare IT adoption incentive program, according to David Blumenthal, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

Stages 2 and 3 will be required of providers by the years 2012 and beyond if they want to cash in on thousands of dollars in federal bonuses. Providers can apply for Stage 1 incentives in 2011.

"We are now firmly into the next season of meaningful use," Blumenthal said at a Tuesday HIT Policy Committee meeting. "We're dealing with the long range success of our enterprise."

George Hripcsak, co-chair of the committee's Meaningful Use Workgroup said the group is slated to meet Sept. 22 to develop draft recommendations for the Stage 2 requirements based on findings from public hearings and other public input.

On Oct. 20, the workgroup will present their recommendations to the HIT Policy Committee for review, and in November the government is expected to issue a request for information for additional public input, Hripcsak said.

In the first two quarters of 2011, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will begin monitoring the data submitted by providers to collect Stage 1 incentives. The agencies will use this information to help formulate some aspects of Stages 2 and 3. By late spring, the policy committee is expected to provide final recommendations to ONC, Hripcsak said.

Blumenthal said the federal government is not bound to apply the committee's recommendations in making the final rules for meaningful use, but its recommendations should be a good indication to the public of what to expect.

Health IT Policy Committee member Deven McGraw of the Center for Democracy and Technology said the regional extension centers and vendors are probably the best positioned to get a frontline view of the response to Stage 1 requirements. "I'd be interested in what they're seeing now and their reactions to what (health IT) options folks are selecting and why," she said.

Some members of the committee were concerned that the proposed schedule won't allow vendors and providers enough time to get certified HIT in place for Stage 2.

Blumenthal assured that vendors would have enough information to begin preparing for Stage 2. Because of the tight time constraints, "there will be 18 months of warning, there won't be 18 months of certainty," he said.

Paul Tang, chair of the Meaningful Use Workgroup said by next April providers and vendors will have "some idea" of what will be expected for meaningful use Stage 2, even if the final policy has not been released. "If no one is submitting data for Stage 1, that will be a signal that we don't want to be adding much more for Stage 2," he said.

Tang said interoperability would be a big focus of the Stage 2 requirements.