Give providers more time with MU3, EHRA says

July 15, 2014

The HIMSS Electronic Health Records Association is urging CMS and ONC not to make the same mistakes with meaningful use as it did with meaningful use 2.

The Health Information Management Systems Society Electronic Health Records Association (EHRA) is urging the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT (ONC) not to make the same mistakes with meaningful use 3 (MU3) as it did with meaningful use 2 (MU2).

The EHRA, which has more than 40 electronic health record (EHR) companies as members, wants to extend the time between when MU3 requirements are published and when the reporting period starts. As of now, EHRA estimates that there may be less than 12 months for hospitals and EHR vendors to start implementing new requirements. The association suggests that reporting start no earlier than 2018-it is now slated to begin October 2017.

“The EHRA has consistently given feedback that 18 months, after all of the guidance (rules, specifications, test procedures, test tools, test data, implementation guides, etc.) is final and available, are required for safe development and distribution of new features. These targets were not achieved in Stage 2 timelines and contributed to the challenges intended to be alleviated by this flexibility proposal,” the EHRA said in a letter to CMS and ONC.

Hospitals, providers and EHR vendors are having a hard time attesting to the 2014 MU2 requirements. As of July 1, only 34% of eligible providers and 7% of eligible hospitals had attested to MU2, according to CMS. In May, CMS reported that only 50 eligible providers and four hospitals had attested. Only eight EHR vendors have been used to attest to MU2, though nearly 100 have been approved for attestation.

In March, CMS announced that providers could apply for a hardship extension in 2015 if unable to make 2014 MU2 requirements. CMS also extended meaningful use 2 attestation until 2016, and is allowing providers to use 2011 software to meet requirements.

Administrators are not allowing the mistakes of the previous meaningful use stages to make the third stage better for those involved, the EHRA states. More than meeting certain deadlines, it will be important that organizations involved in meaningful use implementation collect the right data.

“Important areas for data collection would be: patient engagement with secure messaging, patient engagement with viewing, downloading, and transmitting their records, and industry progress with interoperability at transitions in care,” the EHRA says. “We are concerned that if the only data CMS has when setting Stage 3 objectives is from those who have been successful with Stage 2, the challenges of some of the thresholds will not be fully understood. Some providers will be willing to volunteer additional data on their progress on Stage 2 measures to inform Stage 3, and we see this as advantageous to the long-term success of the program.”

The EHRA also suggested that CMS and ONC clarify and expand their definition of scenarios that would prohibit providers from meeting 2014 meaningful use 2 requirements.