Stage 2 of Meaningful Use Pushed to 2014

December 2, 2011

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has delayed the implementation of Stage 2 of its “meaningful use” program by one year.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it will delay the implementation of Stage 2 of its “meaningful use” program for EHRs by one year to make it easier for providers to adopt health IT. 

According to several reports - including our own 2011 Technology Survey - physicians nationwide are at varying points in the process of researching, purchasing, adopting, and “meaningfully using” an EHR system. The delay is aimed at giving these physicians, as well as hospitals, more time to get up to speed with the technology in order to move forward a nationwide initiative at better access to patient data.

“Under the current requirements, eligible doctors and hospitals that begin participating in the Medicare EHR Incentive Programs this year would have to meet new standards for the program in 2013,” HHS said in a statement. “If they did not participate in the program until 2012, they could wait to meet these new standards until 2014 and still be eligible for the same incentive payment. To encourage faster adoption, the Secretary announced that HHS intends to allow doctors and hospitals to adopt health IT this year, without meeting the new standards until 2014. Doctors who act quickly can also qualify for incentive payments in 2011 as well as 2012.”

In addition to the delay, HHS also promised “greater outreach efforts” to provide more information to doctors and hospitals about best practices and to vendors whose products allow healthcare providers to meaningfully use EHRs. For example, in communities across the country, HHS will target outreach, education, and training to Medicare-eligible professionals that have registered in the EHR incentive program but have not yet met the requirements for meaningful use.

A survey released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey found 52 percent of office-based physicians in the United States plan to take advantage of the incentive payments available for doctors and hospitals through the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs. The CDC data also revealed the percentage of physicians who have adopted basic EHRs in their practice has doubled from 17 to 34 percent between 2008 and 2011 (with the percent of primary care doctors using this technology nearly doubling from 20 to 39 percent).

The delay was not a surprise: Earlier this summer, federal officials supported a proposal to postpone Stage 2 by one year to 2014 for providers who attest to Stage 1 in 2011. The main argument voiced was that those who attested for Stage 1 in 2011 should not be penalized by tighter timeframes to prepare for Stage 2, according to reports.

Steven J. Stack, board chair elect of the American Medical Association, said the organization applauded HHS for delaying Stage 2 requirements until 2014 for those who start Stage 1 in 2011.

“We continue to urge HHS to fully evaluate Stage 1 and develop solutions to increase physician participation rates prior to finalizing requirements for Stage 2,” said Stack. “We are pleased that recent data shows there is a high interest among physicians to take advantage of the available incentive payments through the government’s EHR Incentive Program, but we remain concerned that this increase in EHR adoption will not occur unless the program maintains sufficient flexibility in later stages. We look forward to reviewing the proposed rule as soon as it is published to ensure that the Stage 2 measures are both meaningful and achievable for physicians.”