The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' (CMS) recently announced final rule [PDF] on Stage 2 compliance for "meaningful use" of electronic health records (EHR) has been met with mixed reactions among most providers and trade groups, including SHM which voiced its concerns back in July.
"It's the classic government mixed bag," says Brenda Pawlak, director of Manatt Health Solutions, a division of New York City law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips.
Physician groups, including SHM and the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), have lauded CMS for pushing back the implementation of Stage 2 meaningful-use requirements to 2014 from 2013. They also praised the agency for halving to 5% the percentage of a practice's patients who interact with an online portal. But for some providers, even the 5% threshold will be difficult to meet. And because physicians have to meet all requirements to qualify for incentive bonuses, the issue could loom large for specific groups.
"I don't think the 10% to 5% is a substantive change," Pawlak says.
Although most hospitalists are not directly subject to "meaningful use" requirements, many are heavily involved with assisting their institutions with implementation. SHM, which voiced its concerns in a July letter to CMS, is following this topic closely.
Some physician groups also lamented that the deadline for Stage 1 compliance remains unchanged at 2015. As physicians and provider groups attempt to comply with myriad rules, Pawlak says, meeting the 5% threshold will emerge as more burdensome as the deadline approaches. Still, CMS and federal officials say, the final rule will help nudge the healthcare system further into the digital age.
"The big message here is the push on standards-based interoperability of information," says Farzad Mostashari, MD, ScM, of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. "We are staying on course with the road map that we set in Stage 1."