Health care IT stakeholders leading the creation of meaningful use criteria are pondering whether to delay the start of stage 2 as the ramifications of electronic health record (EHR) implementation begin to sink in.
Members of the meaningful use workgroup are distilling hundreds of comments on the proposed stage 2 criteria from the field. What’s come across is a strong desire for policymakers to clarify the expectations within the new requirements, and to reconsider how quickly all the new criteria are to be implemented.
Providers currently are expected to begin the transition into stage 2 criteria in 2012, after two years of implementing stage 1 criteria. But the workgroup appears prepared to oblige providers who are asking for more time.
Presenting its suggestions to the full Health IT Policy Committee, the workgroup said the transition could be delayed by a year. In an alternative suggestion, the workgroup said instead of that delay, the rollout could continue on schedule, but offer the same 90-day reporting period being used in the first year of the stage 1 launch, instead of requiring a one-year reporting period as currently proposed.
The committee is charged with providing recommendations on the roll out of the EHR incentive program to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC). That agency oversees the incentive program in conjunction with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
The HITPC will see final stage 2 recommendations by its workgroup in June. In the meantime, the committee was torn on how best to address the timeline issue.
The aggressive roll out might be doing too much too fast, and delaying the stage 2 roll out might help providers implement their EHRs, said Gayle Harrell, a member of the Florida state legislature, during the HITPC meeting. “We really have an opportunity to maybe let people catch up.”
That said, backing off the timeline could lose some of the momentum around using IT to affect change in health care delivery and quality of patient care, which is one of the goals of the EHR incentive program, according to Dr. David Bates, chief of the division of general medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “If we slow down things too much we really could lose some ground.”
There is a bigger picture at work, too. Providers will begin the attestation process for stage 1 criteria this month — as that gets underway, the industry will learn what’s working in the program, and what’s not. That experience will help inform the next stages of the process, as well, said Tony Trenkle, acting director of the CMS’ Office of Information Services.