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Stage 2 Attestation Struggles Continue

Ten eligible hospitals and 972 eligible professionals have attested to Stage 2 meaningful use as of July 1, according to the latest numbers from the government.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Office of the National Coordinator for HIT provided an update on Stage 2 attestation at a July 8 meeting of the Health IT Policy Committee. Paul Egerman, a member of the committee, commented that the good news is that the number of hospitals that have attested to Stage 2 increased during the month of June from 8 to 10 hospitals, or grew 25 percent. But, Egerman soberly observed that “another way of looking at it—as I look at this—is well over 99 percent of the hospitals and eligible professionals are still in Stage 1.”

In an interview with Health Data Management, Ed Park, chief operating officer of cloud-based EHR software vendor athenahealth, called the growth in Stage 2 attestation “anemic” and “terrible.”

However, Elisabeth Myers, policy and outreach lead for the CMS Office of E-Health Standards and Services, warned HIT Policy Committee members at yesterday’s meeting not to jump to any conclusions based on the latest numbers about the “success or lack of success” of Stage 2 MU attestation.

Likewise, Jennifer King, acting director of ONC's office of economic analysis, evaluation and modeling, told the committee that the latest numbers are “an early slice of folks who’ve attested so far in 2014” and “we can’t really say if they’re going to be representative of the entire group of people that will attest by the end of 2014.” Of the hospitals that have attested to Stage 2 so far, a couple are small rural hospitals but are medium in size, King reported.

“We have seen in all the past years that the vast majority of attestations happen in the later parts of the year and we expect that to continue in 2014—even probably to a greater degree,” she added.

Nevertheless, the American Hospital Association last month sent a letter to CMS and ONC taking issue with the “aggressive timeline” for Stage 2 referencing the fact that “most hospitals just received or soon will get their updated EHR software for Stage 2 and will need until summer 2015 to complete their transition on a fast track.”

For its part, athenahealth claims its EHR software was ready for 2014 attestation “long before the calendar changed” and that providers began using the same 2014 Edition certified version of the EHR in June 2013. While athenahealth’s Park acknowledged that Stage 2 is more difficult than Stage 1 in terms of added requirements and higher thresholds, he argued “it’s not even that hard” for providers to achieve.

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