HHS pushes back Stage 2 of Meaningful Use to 2014

As part of a new initiative to accelerate Meaningful Use of electronic health records, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) has announced its intent to delay the start of Stage 2 of the Meaningful Use requirements from 2013 to 2014. This was not unexpected. In July, Farzad Mostashari, the National Coordinator of Health IT, endorsed the one-year postponement in the criteria for receiving government EHR incentives.

Under the proposed change in the Medicare incentive program, providers who attest to Stage 1 of Meaningful Use this year will not have to meet Stage 2 criteria until 2014. Under current rules, they would have to satisfy Stage 2 requirements in 2013--a prime reason for some providers to hold off attesting in Stage 1 until 2012.

The postponement will come too late for hospitals to attest this year; the last date on which they could do so was Nov. 30. But, according to the statement, "doctors who act quickly can also qualify for incentive payments in 2011 as well as 2012."

HHS also released a new report showing that the percentage of physicians using "basic" electronic health record systems doubled to 34 percent in 2011 from 17 percent in 2008. In 2010, the EHR penetration rate was 25 percent.

The survey, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), also showed that 52 percent of office-based physicians now intend to apply for the Meaningful Use incentives, up from 41 percent in 2010.

What's more, HHS announced it will provide new "outreach, education and training" for Medicare eligible professionals who have registered in the EHR incentive program, but have not yet met the Meaningful Use requirements. So far, only a small percentage of eligible professionals who have registered have attested to Meaningful Use.

The new outreach efforts will complement those of the 62 health IT regional extension centers, which recently surpassed their goal of enrolling 100,000 physicians.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) is very pleased with the RECs' progress, ONC spokesman Parmeeth Atwal told FierceHealthIT. "We want to make sure they have all the resources they need" to help physicians in various stages of preparation for Meaningful Use, he explained. This will not require ONC to spend additional money or create new programs, he added.

Finally, HHS unveiled some new stats on their result of its four health IT workforce development programs. As of October, 5,717 professionals had completed their training in health IT at 82 community colleges that have received government grants. More than 10,000 students currently are enrolled in these training programs. Through November, nine universities that received training grants had graduated 500 post-graduate and masters-level health IT professionals. More than 1,700 are expected to graduate by July 2013.

To learn more:
- read the HHS press release