Many Physicians Not Ready for Stage 2 Requirements of Meaningful Use

February 8, 2012
Marisa Torrieri

Have you given much thought to Stage 2 of the government’s EHR incentive program? Here’s why it should be top of mind.

If you’re like most physician practices, you’ve at least purchased an EHR and begun the process of attesting for Stage 1 requirements of CMS' meaningful use regulations. 

A little more than half (55 percent) of 1,017 practice-based respondents to our 2011Technology Survey revealed that their practice uses an EHR, and the number has only increased since then.

But have you given much thought to the next phase of the government’s EHR incentive program?

Researchers at CSC, an IT services provider that serves the healthcare and other markets, have. Though the final rule on Stage 2 of CMS’ meaningful use program has yet to be published, CSC’s latest data-laden report, “Moving Ahead with Stage 2 of Meaningful Use,” focuses on how providers can move to the next stage. In the report, Erica Drazen, report author and managing director of CSC’s global institute, makes a compelling case for why providers need to ramp up efforts to engage patients, coordinate care, and capture the data for quality reporting.

For starters, certain Stage 1 requirements will become more stringent. With Stage 1, a provider only had to prove more than 50 percent of patients adhered to a certain measure. But with Stage 2, a provider may have to show a higher percentage of patients are meeting that measure.

Additionally, Drazen told Physicians Practice that many optional measures providers have chosen to not meet in Stage 1 - such as sending reminders to patients for preventive visits and offering patient access to electronic health information and reconciling medications - may become requirements with Stage 2.

However, many providers aren’t ready to meet some of these upcoming requirements.

For example, CMS data reveals that only 12 percent of eligible providers (those non-hospital-based physicians who attested as of late 2011) chose to meet the optional measure of transmitting information about a patient electronically to another physician. But this measure is going to become more important if providers want to join ACOs, says Drazen.

“What’s at stake in the future is they’re going to be required to do [the optional measures of Stage 1], and if they want to participate in an accountable care organization, they are going to have to do these things to manage a population,” she says.

However, not opting to attest for an optional Stage 1 measure may have nothing to do with a practice’s unwillingness. Often a practice’s EHR doesn’t offer the technology to do a non-required measure. And that’s the vendor’s fault.

“There are operational challenges to doing some of these things,” says Drazen.

While Stage 2 requirements are still months away from being finalized, the report offers a few good suggestions for physicians who want to prepare.

According to the report, healthcare organizations should start by focusing on the three essentials:

1. Providing patients with access to their health information electronically through patient portals or directly from EHR systems;
2. making sure physician notes, including diagnosis and treatment, plus rationale for excluding patients from treatment recommendations, may be captured electronically;
3. Getting a system in place to exchange patient information at transitions in care.