U.S. Senators seek to delay Meaningful Use 2 requirements

The group of U.S. Senators say the schedule for demonstrating Meaningful Use 2 is too aggressive and practices who are not ready should receive a one-year extension.

A group of U.S. Senators have asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to delay the second stage of the Meaningful Use program by one year.

The 17 Senators, all Republicans, wrote to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to express concerns that many providers and Electronic Health Record (EHR) vendors are not prepared to advance to Meaningful Use 2, which is set to begin in 2014 and require physicians to attest to deeper and more comprehensive use of EHR in their practices.

Providers who are ready for the transition to MU2 should be able to proceed on schedule, the letter reads, but those who are not ready should have a one-year extension before they have to attest.

The Senators, led by Sen. John Thune, express three concerns with the current timeline, which includes beginning attestation in 2014 in order to avoid penalties in 2016. Those issues include an unreasonable time crunch for physicians, hospitals and vendors, a “digital divide” between the readiness of large practices and small, rural providers and worries that the “artificially aggressive” timeline will lead to stifled innovation and medical errors.

“If the goal is to improve care by achieving broad and meaningful utilization of EHRs, providing sufficient time to ensure a safe, orderly transition through Stage 2 is critical to having stakeholder buy-in, a necessary component of long-term success,” reads the letter.

The American Medical Association supports the Senators’ plan. The AMA sent a similar letter in July seeking more flexibility for providers moving from stage 1 to stage 2.

“We strongly support successful implementation of EHRs and we join these senators in expressing our concern that overly aggressive deadlines may widen the digital divide for small and rural practices and may have serious unintended consequences including stifling innovation and increasing medical errors,” says AMA Immediate Past Chair Steven J. Stack, MD.

The Senators are seeking a response from Sebelius by October 8, 2013.

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