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Was your EHR vendor late? Applying for hardship exceptions ends soon

Sometimes, for us word people, government-speak sounds like a foreign language and looks just plain absurd. Here’s the latest, get this: The hardship exception application deadline is July 1, for those eligible providers enduring vendor issues that would lead to meaningful use payment adjustments.

If you comprehend all that, congratulations. Go on to the next blog post. For those need a plain-English translation, here goes: Some EHR vendors were late in getting their systems ONC certified for meaningful use 2014 standards. From the backgrounder at the CMS website, clearly it was the vendor’s fault some of the time or the certifying agent dragging their feet. CMS doesn’t want to punish physicians for these delays, so they’re willing to look the other way, pay incentives and even waive Medicare reimbursement penalties for not meaningfully using EHRs next year.

But physicians need to apply for them, and CMS will investigate each request individually.

After July 1, the opportunity for hardship exceptions for physicians who use EHRs from vendors who couldn’t get their acts together passes. So get on it now, docs.

Then comes the fun part, at least for journalists and other interested observers of the health IT marketplace. CMS posts attestation data broken into many different slices, down to which vendor and which products account for how many stage 1 and stage 2 payments. We’ve been tracking this, lately.

Who knows yet, if, or how CMS will flag the vendors who precipitate hardship exceptions, but maybe someone can read the tea leaves and figure it out. Certainly the flat-out absence of a vendor would be telltale. However, we’re guessing even vendors whose tardiness forces customers to get hardship exceptions will show up in the data sets without any particular attention called to them.

Athenahealth, Inc., of course, wants CMS to throw some sunshine on the offenders, which would make them look good. In fact that was one of the reasons the company ditched the EHR Association earlier this year because apparently, athena couldn’t get a quorum for that vote. We wonder why? Could be because of the fact it’s a cloud vendor, the company is a bit more nimble than its non-cloud counterparts and can quickly iterate versions en route to meaningful use certification…and accounts for more than half the stage 2 attestations so far.

In the end, though, open data is open data whether you’re a vendor doing the right things, a journalist, or a physician or CIO shopping for a new EHR because the old one’s not working, is being discontinued, doesn’t interoperate or otherwise doesn’t fill the business need. Wouldn’t it be productive for all of us to know which EHR vendors aren’t making the grade? To CMS, we say yes. White House CTO Todd Park loves to lead the wacky “Data Liberacion!” chants when he shows up at health IT conferences. He also happens to be a co-founder of athenahealth. Let’s see if he liberates hardship exception data that makes his old mates back in Watertown, Massachusetts look good.

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