Healthcare News & Insights

Will Stage 3 finally fix hospitals’ meaningful use issues?

Many providers are choosing to give up on trying to attest to Stage 2 of the meaningful use program. But they may have more luck in the newly proposed Stage 3. 

106577527Despite more providers using electronic health records (EHR) systems, many hospitals and physician practices have struggled to meet the criteria for Stage 2 of the meaningful use program.

As of early October 2014, only 3,655 eligible professionals had received incentive payments for Stage 2 from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). By comparison, CMS paid 268,686 Medicare professionals for Stage 1.

It should come as no surprise then that a majority of doctors have decided to give up on Stage 2, according to Medical Practice Insider.

Skipping stage 2

Medical Practice Insider conducted a survey of about 2,000 physicians in various settings with the help of the SERMO, a social media network specifically for medical professionals.

The survey found about 55% of providers aren’t planning on attesting to Stage 2 in 2015. When asked why, researchers received a variety of reasons, such as finances, resources and timing.

Others struggled with getting their patients to engage with their EHRs, saying that the majority of their patients were elderly and not tech savvy enough to use digital engagement tools. Some providers chose not to attest to stage 2, believing that meeting meaningful use criteria hinders their productivity and care delivery rather than improves it.

Proposed stage 3

Thankfully, it seems like the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) has taken note of providers’ challenges, and is trying to correct the shortcomings in its new Stage 3 proposal to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

There isn’t much detail on the next stage of the program, yet. But according to OBM, “Stage 3 will focus on improving healthcare outcomes and further advance interoperability” and “will propose changes to the reporting period, timelines and structure of the program, including providing a single definition of meaningful use.”

HHS wants to give providers more clarity and flexibility with the program, which means hopefully it will be easier for hospitals and others to earn incentives going forward.

Preparing for issues

There’s no question the healthcare industry will continue to move in a more digital direction.

Both patients and payors are putting pressure on their providers to leverage health IT in more areas and offer more electronic health tools through their EHRs.

However, as Stage 2 has demonstrated, there are many barriers that can affect your meaningful use attestation, be it patient-related, budgetary or EHR-usability problems. Hopefully, Stage 3 will indeed fulfill its promise to be more flexible and less confusing.

But Stage 3 is still two years away.

In the meantime, hospital leaders should spend time pinpointing which barriers affect their meaningful use attestation the most. From there, you can plan ways to address those issues, such as training for patients and clinical staff on how best to use EHR functions, or transitioning to an EHR that better aligns with your operations and daily services.


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