Is it time to press the MU pause button?

This post originally appeared on the AmericanEHR Blog, and is published here with permission.

As the deadline for Stage 2 of meaningful use starts closing in, there has been more chatter and discussion about whether eligible professionals and hospitals are ready. One side of the argument is that a delay in MU Stage 2 would slow the introduction of some important patient engagement features/functions as well as delay health information exchange efforts. These functions are thought to be very important for coordinating care, avoiding redundant tests and procedures, and potentially reducing costs of care.

The other side of the argument (see article on Government Health IT) is that:

  • The two-year cycle of MU changes is too fast.
  • Stage 2 is coming at a time when healthcare providers will be trying to make the switch to ICD-10 -- a major challenge in and of itself.
  • There is evidence that EPs are having challenges with Stage 1 of MU. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) 20 percent of those who attested in 2011 did not do so in 2012 (see AMA Medical News here).

The workflow issues to comply with Stage 1 and transition to Stage 2 are more challenging than the Health IT Policy Committee and Office of the National Coordinator realize especially for rural hospitals and small practices.

Still others are suggesting that there be a compromise. Keep the schedule for Stage 2 the same but introduce an option to help EPs and EHs avoid the penalty if they cannot completely meet Stage 2 requirements. Under this scenario, practices that complete the 90-day attestation successfully in 2014 would get the appropriate incentive payment. Those EPs and EHs that used certified EHR technology (2014 EHR standards) but were not successful in attaining all of the Stage 2 requirements could at least avoid the 2015 penalty. This two-tier process is similar to the e-prescribing incentive program. Recall that for the e-prescribing incentive program there was a way to avoid the 2014 payment adjustment by submitting at least 10 electronic prescriptions from January 1- June 30, 2013.

What do you think? Full steam ahead? Pause? Create options?

This post is the personal opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the American College of Physicians (ACP).