Physicians, EHR vendors struggling with Meaningful Use 2, CMS data shows

May 8, 2014

Only a small number of physicians and hospitals have attested to Meaningful Use stage 2, months into the reporting year, according to data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Only a small number of physicians and hospitals have attested to Meaningful Use stage 2 (MU2) months into the reporting year, according to data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), calling into question the ability of the electronic health record (EHR) vendors to provide physicians with the upgrades to their systems in time.

Only 50 eligible professionals (EPs) have attested to MU2 in the current reporting year, which began on January 1, 2014. For hospitals, only four facilities have attested to MU2 seven months into the reporting year, which began on October 1, 2013.

Physicians and hospitals that can’t attest to MU2 or do not receive a hardship exemption will receive Medicare reimbursement penalties.

MU2 requires greater interoperability between EHR systems and is intended to boost health information exchange between providers and promote patient engagement by providing patients with secure online access to their health information.

But EHR vendors have struggled with certifying to the 2014 edition necessary for MU2. The total number of vendors offering a complete EHR system with 2014 certification reached 97 as of mid-April 2014, according to data from The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

CMS data, presented recently to the Health Information Technology Policy Committee, shows that 17% of EPs use software that has not been certified to the “2014 edition,” a necessity to complete MU2 requirements.

These providers will either have to wait for vendor upgrades or switch to another EHR system to attest to MU2.

Hospitals are in a better position that physicians, since 95% are using EHR systems that will be able to be upgraded to 2014 edition, according to CMS.

Next: How physicians can apply for hardship exemptions

 

Hardship exemptions

One way to avoid a penalty if a physician’s EHR vendor is not prepared for MU2 is to apply for a hardship exemption. So far, 600 EPs and 72 hospitals have applied for hardship exemptions, according to CMS data. Providers whose applications are approved for the exemption would not be subject to the penalty, but would also not receive the incentive payment.

CMS has previously acknowledged that many EHR vendors may be behind in necessary software upgrades, so it extended MU2 through 2016 to give providers more time to attest.

Providers whose vendors were unable to reach 2014 certification may qualify for exemption. According to new language in the CMS hardship exception application, EPs can now select “2014 EHR Vendor Issues” as a reason for exception.  Other reasons for an exemption include lack of infrastructure, unforeseen circumstances, lack of control over the availability of certified EHR technology, and

The deadline for EPs to submit an application is July 1, 2014.