Dec. 9—Providers will have more time to meet electronic health record (EHR) use requirements under a recently proposed delay in the deadlines for the primary federal incentive program.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed Dec. 6 to delay Stage 2 and 3 of the meaningful use EHR incentive program, which is expected to provide up to $30 billion for qualifying physicians and hospitals.

The delay would push back the end of Stage 2 (which generally comprises process measures) from Oct. 1, 2014, until the end of 2016. The start of Stage 3 (generally measures of health outcomes) would be delayed from 2016 to 2017. The 2017 start of Stage 3 would apply to providers that have completed at least two years of Stage 2 and would begin in January 2017 for physicians and October 2016 for qualifying hospitals.

“This new proposed timeline tracks ongoing conversations we at [the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information] have had with providers, consumers, health care associations, EHR developers, and other stakeholders in the healthcare industry,” Robert Tagalicod, director of the Office of E-Health Standards and Services at CMS, and Jacob Reider, MD, acting national coordinator for health information technology, wrote in a blog post.  “This timeline allows for enhanced program analysis of Stage 2 data to inform to the improvements in care delivery outcomes in Stage 3.”

The EHR incentive program was created by the 2009 HITECH Act.

The delays were proposed after providers and health information technology companies repeatedly called for delays in the meaningful use program to allow for more implementation time before penalties begin for noncompliant providers.

The need for more time to comply with federal health information requirement emerged as a common theme among provider representatives speaking Friday at a CMS eHealth Summit before the delay was announced.

For instance, Robert Tennant, senior policy adviser for the Medical Group Management Association, urged federal officials to take more time to fully evaluate Stage 1 and 2 before developing the Stage 3 requirements. More time also would help providers acclimate to the new technology. A recent RAND Corporation study indicated up to 80 percent of physicians are dissatisfied with their EHR due to increased clerical demands and reduced time for talking to patients.

“Let’s make sure they don’t lose time and productivity when using this technology,” Tennant said.

Publication Date: Monday, December 09, 2013