Data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows that as of Dec. 1, 2014, 1,681 hospitals and 16,455 eligible professionals have attested to Stage 2 meaningful use.

That means less than 35 percent of hospitals currently meet Stage 2 requirements and while eligible professionals have until the end of February to report their progress, only 4 percent of EPs have met Stage 2 requirements to date. The low attestation numbers, presented during a Dec. 9 Health IT Policy Committee meeting, got the attention of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives which renewed its call for CMS to immediately shorten the reporting period for 2015.

"Despite policy efforts to mitigate a disastrous program year, today's release of participation data confirms widespread challenges with Stage 2 meaningful use," said Russell Branzell, president and CEO of CHIME, in a written statement. The industry group argues that approximately 1 in 3 hospitals scheduled to meet Stage 2 MU in 2014 had to use alternative paths to do so. "This trend demonstrates how vital new flexibilities were in 2014 and again, underscores the need for the same flexibility in 2015," adds Branzell.

A final rule published in September offered flexibility in attesting for Stage 2 during the short period of time remaining in the 2014 calendar and fiscal years, but retained a provision for a full-year of reporting in 2015. The number of providers required to meet Stage 2 for a full 365-days in 2015 is staggering, according to CHIME. More than 3,900 hospitals must meet Stage 2 measures and objectives next year, the group warns, while more than 260,000 EPs will need to be similarly positioned by January 1, 2015.

CHIME as well as the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and Health Information and Management Systems Society, support the Flexibility in Health IT Reporting (Flex-IT) Act that would create a 90-day reporting period in 2015. Introduced in September by Reps. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah), the Flex-IT Act is a bipartisan bill with more than 21 cosponsors. For its part, HIMSS is urging its members to contact their representatives in Congress now and ask them to support the legislation.

"Swift passage of the Flex-IT bill before Congress adjourns will provide the certainty that healthcare providers deserve to ensure the safe implementation and use of their EHR systems," concludes Branzell.

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