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6/9/2011
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Health IT Panel Wants To Extend 'Meaningful Use' Deadline

Citing unreasonable timelines, the Health IT Standards Committee recommends that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services put off compliance with stage 2 healthcare rules until 2014.

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The meaningful use workgroup of the Health IT Policy Committee, an advisory panel to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), on Wednesday recommended that providers achieving stage 1 meaningful use in 2011 be given three years to meet stage 2 standards. Currently, hospitals, physicians, and other healthcare providers have two years from the time they attest to stage 1 meaningful use to reach the second stage.

"The HITPC has heard from both the vendor community and the provider community that the current schedule for compliance with stage 2 meaningful use objectives in 2013 poses a nearly insurmountable timing challenge for those who attest to meaningful use in 2011," the workgroup said in a draft letter to national health IT coordinator Dr. Farzad Mostashari.

According to the letter, HHS will not have the rules for stage 2 finalized until June 2012. With Medicare Part A operating on the federal fiscal year, the 2013 reporting period for hospitals would begin in October 2012. (Individual physicians and other eligible providers participating in Medicare Part B follow the calendar year for the purposes of meaningful use.)

Once the new standards, along with companion rules for certification of electronic health records (EHRs), become final, vendors will have to update and get their products certified for stage 2 so their customers can remain eligible for incentive payments.

"It's impossible to meet the deadline the way it is now," workgroup member Judy Murphy said Tuesday in Madison, Wis. Murphy, VP of information services at Aurora Health Care, a 14-hospital integrated delivery network based in Milwaukee, explained at the Wisconsin Technology Network's ninth annual Digital Healthcare Conference that providers must use certified EHR technology for a full year before applying for stage 2 payments. HHS only requires 90 consecutive days during the first year of participation in stage 1, so there was not as much urgency when the stage 1 rules came out a year ago.

The proposed delay would only affect those achieving meaningful use this year. "Those who attest to stage 1 for the first time in 2012 would continue to have the same expectation (2014) for meeting the stage 2 criteria," said the letter.

The idea is to "encourage and reward early adopters," according to the meaningful use workgroup's PowerPoint presentation.

The workgroup also said the plan would help providers align their EHR projects with the October 2013 deadline to switch to ICD-10 coding and the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Many of the provisions in the healthcare reform legislation take effect in 2014.

The Healthcare IT Leadership Forum is a day-long venue where senior IT leaders in healthcare come together to discuss how they're using technology to improve clinical care. It happens in New York City on July 12. Find out more.

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