The American Medical Association (AMA) and 41 medical societies have asked Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan to pause the rule implementing Stage 3 of the Meaningful Use program.
In letters dated Sept. 17, the provider groups relayed that they are "extremely concerned" with the current direction of the Meaningful Use program and are "extremely dismayed" at reports that the rule implementing Stage 3 has been combined with the rule softening some of the requirements of the program for 2015-2017, known as the modifications or alterations rule.
The letters point out that while 80 percent of physicians are using electronic health records, less than 10 percent have successfully participated in Stage 2 of the program. Moreover, due to the program's inflexible regulations and certification requirements, EHR vendors have created products that are often unusable, administratively burdensome, and do not promote clinically relevant patient care.
"If the administration finalizes the proposed MU Stage 3 regulation now, vendors will create software that will lock-in problematic technology, which physicians and patients will be living with for years to come," the letters say. "The proposed MU Stage 3 regulation exacerbates problematic policies of MU Stage 2 by continuing to "count" physicians' compliance with one-size-fits-all objectives rather than focusing on the clinical activities that should support differences in medical practices and patient care. We believe Stage 3 takes a drastic step backwards from the proposed improvements of the Modifications Rule."
The provider groups ask that Stage 3 be paused to reevaluate the program in light of the "pivotal" changes in Medicare caused by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA). The Stage 3 rule was developed before and without consideration of MACRA, which folds the Meaningful Use requirements into a new merit-based Medicare reimbursement system.
They also ask that the 2015 certification rule be delayed, for the modifications rule to be finalized as soon as possible and that an additional hardship exception be created for providers due to the lateness of the rule's finalization.
The medical groups are not the only voices criticizing Stage 3 and/or calling for a delay of Stage 3 of the program. Sen. Lamar Alexander this week also recommended that it be delayed and phased in based on its success. Both rules are in the hands of the Office of Management and Budget.