The number of hospitals and eligible professionals that have attested for Stage 2 of the electronic health records program rose sharply during the past month, but the overall numbers remain low.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 78 hospitals and 1,898 EPs have attested as of August 1. That compares with 10 hospitals and 972 EPs a month earlier.

Still, hospitals in particular continue to struggle with the attestation process.

“We’re 10 months into the reporting year and frankly eight weeks until the end of the reporting year for hospitals. The data are concerning and really do not support a notion that the program in its current form is on track, or at least on track to an endpoint that we could all define as successful,” said Dianne Jones, senior associate policy director for the American Hospital Association (AHA), during the public comment period of the August 6 HIT Policy Committee meeting.

AHA is urging the Department of Health and Human Services to quickly finalize a proposed federal rule that would ease compliance with meaningful use requirements during 2014 and extend Stage 2 by a year.

“Hospitals that do not meet meaningful use by October 1 of this year could be subject to significant payment penalties under Medicare and lose promised incentives,” said Linda Fishman, AHA’s senior vice president for public policy analysis and development, in an August 7 written statement. “The AHA urges CMS and ONC to take immediate steps to ensure the success of the meaningful use program, starting with finalizing the rule offering some limited flexibility in 2014 that was proposed in May.”

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