Hospital CIOs: Proposed Meaningful Use rule a 'shallow victory'

Many hospital CIOs on FierceHealthIT's Editorial Advisory Board expressed disappointment with Tuesday's proposed rule by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services allowing providers to use the 2011 edition of certification criteria for Stage 1 or Stage 2  of the Meaningful Use incentive program in 2014, calling it confusing and saying the change comes too late.

The rule, to be published Friday in the Federal Register, also formalizes the agencies' intention to extend Stage 2 to 2016 and to begin Stage 3 in 2017, which it announced last December.

Todd Richardson (pictured right), senior vice president and CIO at Wausau, Wisconsin-based Aspirus, Inc., said that while being able to remain on a 2011 version of a system may seem like a win for some providers, if that version doesn't enable Stage 2 attestation, it's a shallow victory.

"These delays and changes [including ICD-10] tend to reward those who have delayed and haven't been prudent in preparation," Richardson told FierceEMR via email. "If we look back in hindsight at all of the delays, one would think policy makers would begin grasping the concept that they are being too aggressive in setting deadlines, when they end up constantly pushing things off."

Both Linda Reed (pictured left), VP and CIO at Morristown, New Jersey-based Atlantic Health System, and Indranil Ganguly, VP and CIO at Edison, New Jersey-based JFK Health System, said that the rule did not provide clarity in certain areas.

"At this time, the announcement is too vague to make me think it's helpful," Reed told FierceEMR via email. "We have already done our 2014 upgrade, as have many others.  I'm not sure that is the issue at this time."

Added Ganguly (pictured right), via email: "While I applaud the fact that CMS is reacting to the calls for relief from the industry, I am not clear yet on whether those of us who have been aggressive and diligent will see any meaningful relief.  While I am hoping that as we collectively analyze the proposed rule some relief may emerge, I don't think we can afford to take our foot off the Meaningful Use pedal."

Stephen Stewart (pictured left), CIO at Henry County Health Center in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, echoed Richardson's sentiment that the rule essentially rewards procrastination.

"We need to allow ample time for the vendors to create usable systems and for us to implement and operationalize them; that seems to be lacking," Stewart told FierceEMR via email. "Once again, those who planned and executed will see little benefit here."

Despite being prepared, Edward Marx (pictured right), senior VP and CIO at Texas Health Resources in Dallas, said that the rule still could be helpful for his organization.

"We had worked through all the 'technical' nuances during our current attestation period, but as we all know, it is not normally the tech, it is the process; the new processes for our clinicians that were problematic," Marx told FierceEMR via email. "This gives us a bit more time to implement and perfect these."

College of Healthcare Information Management Executives President and CEO Russell Branzell, in a statement issued Tuesday, said that the rule could provide needed relief for hospital CIOs, but only if CMS finalizes it quickly.

"CHIME is concerned that the timing of these changes may not afford hospitals a chance to take advantage of the proposed flexibility," the statement said.

To learn more:
- here's CHIME's statement