Senate health committee chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has called for a delay in the finalization of the Stage 3 rule for the electronic health records Meaningful Use program until January 1, 2017, at which time the requirements “should be phased in at a rate that reflects how successfully the program is being implemented.”

Alexander made the announcement during a Sept. 16 committee hearing on EHRs. In calling for the delay, he said “it does not help patients to make these massive changes fast and wrong,” adding that providers “need time do it right.”

Alexander also told fellow lawmakers that the modified rules proposed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for Stage 2 of the program “should be adopted immediately because it will help most doctors and hospitals to comply with the government’s requirements.”

Stage 3, the final planned stage of Meaningful Use, is close to being finalized. Earlier this month, CMS sent both the Stage 3 rule and modifications to Stage 2 in 2015 through 2017 to the Office of Management and Budget for their review and approval, which is expected shortly.

Also See: Congress Considers Putting Brakes on Stage 3

“Some hospitals have told me they are ‘terrified’ by the prospect of Stage 3,” Alexander added. “These are some of the finest medical centers in the United States, some of whom have been the pioneers and leaders in electronic health records.”

The senator commented that “all hospitals and most physicians met the requirements” for Stage 1, while “Stage 2 requirements are so complex that only about 12 percent of eligible physicians and about 40 percent of eligible hospitals have been able to comply.”

Alexander concluded: “That’s why we should immediately adopt the proposed modifications to Stage 2 requirements—so physicians and hospitals have time to adapt to these huge changes and we should delay until January 1 of 2017, making the final rules for Stage 3 so we can do it properly.”

Spokespersons for Alexander and CMS were not immediately available for additional comment on the proposal.

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