Feds Ease Up on Meaningful Use 2: How Healthcare Pros Can Take Advantage
The Feds have some good news for healthcare providers who are struggling to meet the requirements for Stage 2 meaningful use. But as is often the case, that good news also came with a dose of bad news.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued a final ruling in the hope of adding a little flexibility to the meaningful use incentive program. It gives select providers the option to use the 2011 edition of certified EHR technology or a combination of the 2011 edition and the 2014 edition to qualify for meaningful use incentives in 2014.
Those 2011 editions aren’t approved for use beyond 2014, however.
CMS believes the added flexibility should allow more organizations to take part in the program and meet critical requirements such as electronic prescribing, providing clinical reviews to patients and reporting on their own quality control efforts.
On the surface it all sounds pretty great – especially considering some of the numbers being floated out there by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME).
According to CHIME’s figures, roughly 85% of the eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals to participate in the meaningful use program will be required to advance on to Stage 2 come 2015. Of those organizations, only around half were on pace to meet Stage 2 requirements this year.
Facing some pushback
But regardless of the projected upsides, not everyone is thrilled with CMS’ ruling.
The problem some organizations have with the decision is that it doesn’t do enough to lighten the hefty reporting burden caused by Stage 2. Even worse: There’s concern the decision could be putting healthcare organizations in a weaker position in terms of meaningful use compliance over the long haul.
The biggest sticking point is EHR reporting for 2015. CMS has elected to continue requiring a 365-day EHR reporting period in 2015. Organizations had been hoping to get that reduced to a three month stretch.
“This single provision has severely muted the positive impacts of this final rule. Further, it has all but ensured that industry struggles will continue well beyond 2014,” argued Russell P. Branzell, the President and CEO of CHIME.
Branzell also warned that by failing to shorten the 2015 reporting period, CMS was risking “the long-term vitality” and the “very future” of the meaningful use program by setting a potentially unhittable goal.
Despite the criticism, CMS stood behind its decision.
“We listened to stakeholder feedback and provided certified EHR technology flexibility for 2014 to help ensure providers can continue to participate in the EHR Incentive Programs moving forward,” said CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner. “We were excited to see that there is overwhelming support for this change.”
CMS’ ruling pushed back the start of the Stage 3 timeline, which now begins in 2017 for providers who first became meaningful EHR users in either 2011 or 2012 and it also finalized the extension of Stage 2 through 2016 for select providers.
Where to find help
Healthcare IT pros know even when it sounds like the government’s making meaningful use compliance easier, there’s always another challenge or obstacle looming. And there’s plenty riding on an organization’s ability to stay on top of those shifting deadlines and requirements. Organizations whose programs don’t make the grade run the risk of costly penalties and missing out on government incentives.
There’s certainly no shortage of IT solutions out there for healthcare organizations to consider. When time is short and a decision has to be made, the experience and know-how of a solution provider like Arraya can be invaluable. Arraya can remove some of the stress from the process by helping organizations implement the right tools needed to ensure compliance and efficiency.
For example, Arraya’s expert team of delivery engineers can help organizations through the process of architecting and implementing an elastic, highly available virtual infrastructure and an enterprise-class storage system, two key components of EMC’s EHR Infrastructure Solutions Suite. This solution, with support from industry-leading Healthcare ISV partners, can benefit healthcare service providers who are just getting started on revamping their technology, as well as those who are looking to take existing systems even further.
The EHR Infrastructure Solutions Suite allows organizations to consolidate, virtualize and manage their clinical and business applications and improve workflow, making for easier collaboration between professionals. It can also provide the security healthcare IT leaders demand by preventing the unauthorized outflow of sensitive data from a protected network.
Arraya also specializes in delivering Microsoft-branded solutions for EHR, such as SQL Server and Azure. These technologies have the power to change the way healthcare organizations utilize analytics. By introducing a simplified, ‘drag and drop’ interface for collecting, organizing, displaying and storing critical data, the process of building experiments, testing, scoring, and evaluating predictive models becomes much more intuitive.
For additional information on these solutions and others, or to find out how else Arraya can impact your organization, visit http://go.arrayasolutions.com/healthcare.html. Also, don’t forget to register for our upcoming event, Stories of Success: How IT Decision-makers are Changing the Game in Healthcare. There are still some seats available for the event, which will take place at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in King of Prussia, PA, at 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday Sept. 24.