EHR vendors want more realistic timelines, better clarity in MU Stage 3

Health IT vendor representatives, lamenting the challenges of Stage 2 of Meaningful Use, called for more realistic timelines and better clarity and consistency on specifications for Stage 3 at a listening session hosted this week by ONC's Health IT Policy Committee.

The timelines for Stage 2 were far too short to meet the "extensive scope of the requirements,"  HIMSS Electronic Health Record Association Vice Chair Leigh Burchell said. To that end, Burchell, who also serves as vice president of government affairs at Allscripts, called for a timeline of at least 18 months to complete Stage 3.

"It is essential that we take advantage of the opportunity that we have to avoid repeating the Stage 1 and Stage 2 timing challenges for providers and vendors," Burchell said in prepared remarks. "This timing request was made for Stage 2 but was not met and, as of today, almost eight months into Stage 2, we still do not have a final, complete, high-quality set of requirements."

She also called for "clear and consistent specifications, guidance and FAQs," noting that the program's complexity continues to increase rapidly as new requirements--specifically those focused on measurement and compliance--are introduced.

"Keeping up with this accelerating flow of information has been costly and confusing for all stakeholders," Burchell said.

Catherine Britton, a product manager at Siemens, echoed Burchell's sentiments, recommending a similar timeline of at least 18 months. She also called for aligned "reporting and interoperability priorities among" everyone involved in the program.

"The quality of the finalized MU measures and CEHRT standards, including CQMs, protocol mandates and industry readiness ... remain a considerable challenge even at this date," Britton said.

Dan Haley, vice president of regulatory and government affairs for athenahealth, however, disagreed with his vendor colleagues. Athenahealth, last month, left the "outdated" EHRA, calling its public policy priorities "broader and more varied" than its traditional software counterparts.

"Government needs to stop setting policy goals to cater to technology laggards and formulate policy to bring more providers into the modern information technology age," Haley said. "Keep reducing and delaying, and those same vendors will be more than happy to continue to sell annual licenses for noninteroperable, static software that frustrates care providers, drives up systemic costs and fails to improve care. If that is the course we continue to take, then the MU program should simply be scrapped to save the billions currently being poured into systems that year after year declare themselves unequal to the task of delivering on the enormous promise of health IT."

In a post to his Life as a Healthcare CIO blog, John Halamka, CIO at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and co-chair of ONC's Health IT Standards Committee, called the constant "fixes" to the program too much. Referencing the rule proposed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services last week that provides more flexibility for EHR certification in 2014, Halamka said that "it's getting to the point that even the authors [of the regulations] cannot answer questions about the regulations because there are too many layers."

He suggested "radically simplifying" the program to focus on interoperability, eliminating existing certification requirements and providing hospitals and professionals with "very clear direction."

To learn more:
- listen to the meeting
- read Burchell's remarks
- check out Britton's remarks
- here's Halamka's post