Feb. 24—Up to two-fifths of hospitals are in danger of failing to meet 2014 federal requirements for demonstrating meaningful use of electronic health records (EHRs), according to a leading hospital advocacy group.

The assessment of poor compliance by many of the more than 5,000 hospitals subject to EHR adoption and use requirements under the federal program aimed at spurring the adoption of EHRs came amid calls for increased “flexibility” for assessing providers’ progress.

“We are seeing that as many as 40 percent of hospitals could be at risk of missing the 2014 certified EHR adoption and meaningful use requirements if they remain the same,” Chantal Worzala, director of policy for the American Hospital Association (AHA), said in a written statement

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) should provide “the flexibility needed to help these hospitals pass the finish line safely,” she said.

The AHA was one of 48 healthcare advocacy organizations that wrote HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Feb. 21 to warn of shortfalls among many providers subject to the meaningful use requirements. Failure to adopt the 2014 edition of certified EHR technology (CEHRT) and meet a higher threshold of meaningful use criteria within the next seven months, leaders for these organizations wrote, will lead many providers to lose incentive payments and be subject to “significant” Medicare penalties.

Driving the Delay

Only a small fraction of 2011 edition EHR products received certification to 2014 edition standards. The lack of certified options “inhibits the ability of providers to manage the transition to the 2014 edition CEHRT and Stage 2 in a safe and orderly manner,” leaders for healthcare advocacy organizations wrote in a letter to Sebelius.

The lack of needed vendor support could lead a large number of hospitals to fail to meet the program’s requirements for 2014 because providers will either drop efforts to meet meaningful use requirements or because they will push to implement a system too quickly, healthcare advocacy organizations maintain. Any hurried implementation could both jeopardize the success of EHR adoption efforts and endanger the public, according to the letter these organizations sent to Sebelius.

“Providers need adequate time to learn how to use the newly deployed technology, including examining staff assignments, workflows, and practice processes,” leaders for these organizations wrote.

Problematic rules, according to the letter, are those that deem organizations as having failed adoption requirements for the entire year even if they have missed “a single objective by even a small amount.”

Among the steps urged by the organizations was an extension through 2015 of the deadline to implement 2014 edition certified EHR software and meet the program requirements.

Publication Date: Monday, February 24, 2014