Med Groups Take Issue with CMS’ Future Meaningful Use Plans

March 2, 2011

Medical associations representing practices and other healthcare providers teamed up to ask CMS for more specificity and clarity when it comes to Stages 2 and 3 meaningful use measures.

Physician practices and medical associations don’t necessarily have a lot in common on a day-to-day basis (doctors treat patients; associations answer to members). But when it comes to the implementation of Stage 2 and 3 meaningful use measures, practices and associations share similar concerns. 

Responding to CMS’ Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program draft published January 18, (76FR2910) and on the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) website, a number of medical associations called for more specificity and clarity when it comes to Stages 2 and 3 of meaningful use. Nearly 40 organizations from the American Medical Association to the American Academy of Family Physicians signed a 46-page letter of recommended amendments to the proposal.

Among other things, the letter calls for the federal Health Information Technology Policy Committee (HITPC) to exercise greater flexibility and give physicians more time to get used to Stage 1 of the meaningful use incentive program before issuing guidelines for Stages 2 and 3.

“We believe it will be critical for CMS and ONC to create a mechanism to evaluate the progression of meaningful use objectives and measures, as well as the costs of adoption and upgrades of technology,” said the letter. “Evaluating both the ability of physicians, EHR vendors, and the industry as a whole to meet measures and objectives, as well as associated costs, should be part of any decision-making process to move from one stage to the next.”

The letter stated that physicians “are diligently working towards incorporating well-developed EHRs into their practices to improve quality of care delivery, enhance patient safety, as well as support practice efficiencies. Inflexible, overly ambitious incentive program requirements “will only hinder health IT transitions underway today.”

Comments made in this letter reflect what many practices have been saying for a while.

The biggest concern practices have over the proposed Stage 2 and 3 measures is “that they have no experience reporting on Stage 1,” says healthcare consultant Rosemarie Nelson, who works with physician practices. “[There is] so much uncertainty about how they are using their EHRs and how they will be able to extract data and how they can test an ‘exchange.’”

AMA Board Secretary Steven J. Stack shared similar sentiments.

“Physicians are working hard to adopt EHRs into their practices and inflexible incentive program requirements will only hinder the health IT transitions underway today,” Stack said in a statement. “Unrealistic Stage 2 requirements will overly burden physicians and hamper adoption, especially for those physicians in small or solo practice.”

What are your practice’s biggest concerns about Stage 2 and 3 requirements? Post your thoughts below.