Legislative pressure to delay Meaningful Use Stage 3 appears to be gaining momentum in the U.S. Senate. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate health committee, had breakfast yesterday morning with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell in which he broached the issue.

“There’s been some discussion about delaying Meaningful Use Stage 3, about whether it’s a good idea, whether it’s a bad idea, whether to delay part of it or all of it,” said Alexander, who made the comments during the committee’s Thursday hearing on electronic health records and information blocking. “My instinct is to say to Secretary Burwell ‘let’s not go backwards on electronic healthcare records.’”

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He told the committee that the consensus among providers is that MU Stage 1 helped to encourage EHR adoption, Stage 2 has been a mixed bag, and that Stage 3 is a “whole other kettle of fish.” According to Alexander, he spoke to one respected hospital executive who opined that Stage 1 and 2 “worked okay” but that they were “terrified” by Stage 3.

“We might want to slow down the implementation of Stage 3, not with the idea of backing up on it, but with the idea of saying ‘let’s get this right,’” he urged. “Let’s get this right before 500 employees and a billion dollars at the Mayo Clinic is put to work implementing a system that’s not right and then has to be changed in two, three or four years.”

In March, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a notice for proposed rulemaking that outlined the third and final stage of the Meaningful Use program slated to begin in 2018.

Testifying on behalf of the American College of Cardiology (ACC), Michael Mirro, M.D., chief academic research officer for the Parkview Mirro Center for Research and Innovation in Fort Wayne, Ind., told the committee that Stage 3 should be delayed in its entirety. Delaying only certain parts of Stage 3 would just cause further confusion around the program, according to a letter ACC sent to Alexander last month.

“Although the Meaningful Use program has brought favorable results within the context of data transfer, many of the requirements set forth in the program are unattainable,” said Mirro, who commented that only 11 percent of physicians have so far attested to Stage 2. “We definitely need to delay Stage 3. We really have to digest the impact of Stage 2 Meaningful Use and continue to strive to simplify the requirements.”

Likewise, David Kibbe, M.D., president and CEO of DirectTrust, recommended to the committee “an immediate moratorium on Stage 3 until Stage 2 is fixed.” According to Kibbe, there are parts of Stage 2 that must be improved so that more eligible professionals and hospitals can participate in the program.

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