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Stage 2 Meaningful Use Delayed

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The Department of Health and Human Services has moved the start date for Stage 2 of the electronic health records meaningful use program from 2013 to 2014. Why the delay, you ask? Here are some reasons why:

  • According to the department’s statement regarding the decision, input from the vendor community and the provider community has made it pretty clear 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 anticipated release date of the final rule for stage 2 is (or rather, was) June, 2012 which means the timetable would have given EHR vendors a hard time designing, developing, and releasing new functionality. Eligible hospitals, too, would have had to face the brunt of the time constraint; they would have had to upgrade, implement AND begin using the new functionality by the beginning of the reporting year in October of 2012.
  • The department believes that the delay will give vendors added time to develop certified EHR technologies for Stage 2 while giving providers additional time to implement new software and meet the new challenges of Stage 2 at the same time. The delay will likely be proposed in the Stage 2 meaningful use Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), which is scheduled to be published in February 2012. The department has also mentioned its intention to propose maintaining the current expectation for those first attesting to meaningful use in 2012, so that all providers attesting to meaningful use in 2011 or 2012 will begin Stage 2 in 2014.
  • The department wants to provide added incentive for providers attesting to meaningful use in 2011. Through its statement, the department has encouraged any providers who have been waiting until 2012 to attest to Stage 1 meaningful use now. It has also mentioned that under the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, providers who attest early will receive greater incentives. “And now those providers who first attest in 2011 can get three payment years for meeting the Stage 1 expectations, while those first attesting in 2012 can only get two payment years under Stage 1 criteria,” reads the statement.

Well, this means providers who attest to stage 1 of meaningful use this year will not have to worry about meeting Stage 2 criteria until 2014, which is undoubtedly good news. However, healthcare providers should remember that the postponement will come too late to attest this year which means eligible hospitals and physicians that begin participating this year should still meet new standards for the program in 2013.

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