Continued low numbers of eligible hospitals and professionals who have attested to Stage 2 meaningful use has prompted renewed calls from healthcare industry groups for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to shorten the reporting period in 2015 and provide more program flexibility.

At today’s Health IT Policy Committee meeting, CMS reported that 11,478 EPs and 840 hospitals have successfully attested to Stage 2 as of Nov. 1, 2014. Elisabeth Myers with the CMS Office of E-Health Standards and Services told the committee that Nov. 30 is the deadline for hospital attestation for meaningful use in 2014.

However, in a joint press release, the American Medical Association, College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, and Medical Group Management Association called the results “disappointing, yet predictable” and voiced their shared concerns with the lower-than-expected numbers and continued reports detailing nationwide difficulty in meeting requirements for meaningful use.

"Meaningful use participation data released today have validated the concerns of providers and IT leaders. These numbers continue to underscore the need for a sensible glide-path in 2015," said CHIME President and CEO Russell Branzell. "Providers have struggled mightily in 2014, in many instances for reasons beyond their control.  If nothing is done to help them get back on track in 2015, we will continue to see growing dissatisfaction with EHRs and disenchantment with meaningful use."

"The low number of EP attestations to date is clear evidence that physician practices and their vendor partners have faced significant challenges in meeting the more onerous Stage 2 requirements of meaningful use," said Anders Gilberg, senior vice president for government affairs at MGMA. "Shortening the reporting period in 2015 is a much needed change if the program is to remain viable and is a critical step if the nation is to continue making progress toward the goal of interoperability."

According to the industry groups, less than 17 percent of the nation's hospitals have demonstrated Stage 2 capabilities. In addition, they say less than 38 percent of hospitals have met either Stages 1 or 2 in 2014, “highlighting the difficulty of program requirements and foretelling continued struggles in 2015.”  And, while EPs have until the end of February to attest for 2014, the groups warn that only 2 percent have demonstrated Stage 2 capabilities so far.

Acknowledging this fact, Paul Egerman, a member of the HIT Policy Committee, commented that as things currently stand “roughly 98 percent of the industry is still on Stage 1.” However, Myers from CMS insisted that “it’s hard to interpret the numbers” which are “raw data” and that until the hospital attestation period closes at the end of this month “it will actually be hard for us to fully identify which stage each provider participates in based on the flexibility options that are available and to project who might use flexibility and who might not.”   

Nonetheless, according to industry groups, more than 3,900 hospitals must meet Stage 2 measures and objectives in 2015 and more than 260,000 EPs will need to be similarly positioned by January 1, 2015. “Given the low attestation data for 2014 and the tremendous number of providers required, but likely unable to fulfill, Stage 2 for a full 365-days in 2015,” the industry groups are calling for a shortened reporting period next year.

“If CMS continues to require a full-year of meaningful use reporting for 2015, we anticipate that large segments of providers will no longer be able to participate in the program-which hinders our nation's ability to improve the quality, safety, cost-effectiveness, and access to care," added Carla Smith, executive vice president of HIMSS.

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