Hospitals to HHS: Reconsider Meaningful Use Stage 3

Boston-based Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and 30 other provider organizations nationwide implore the Department of Health and Human Services to reconsider moving forward with Stage 3 of Meaningful Use in a letter sent Thursday to Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell.

The letter, posted to BIDMC CIO John Halamka's Life as a Healthcare CIO blog, criticizes Stage 3 for being an inflexible, "one-size-fits-all" continuation of the program's second stage, which also is deemed unsuccessful for its rigid and misguided approach.

"The Stage 3 final rule, like its predecessor rules, is too focused on pass-fail requirements and lacks emphasis on outcomes," the organizations say.

Those requirements, according to the organizations, not only deter provider participation, but also cause electronic health record vendor companies to develop systems focusing less on innovation and improvement and more on checking often unnecessary boxes.

"Health IT vendors routinely state that meeting MU requirements monopolizes most of their development and testing time and that many of the upgrades or features most requested by their customers are put on the backburner until the complex process of certifying for MU takes place," the hospitals say. "We believe Stage 2 EHR design requirements have been a fundamental drag on interoperability and that Stage 3 will worsen these problems."

The letter comes on the heels of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announcing that 209,000 eligible providers will see a slash in their Medicare payments after failing to meet Meaningful Use standards in 2014.

CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt, speaking at the J.P. Morgan Annual Healthcare Conference in San Francisco on Monday, told attendees that 2016 likely will mark the end of the Meaningful Use program as it has existed, particularly in light of the forthcoming changes called for in the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015.

Halamka, in the post sharing the letter, says the 31 provider organizations remain optimistic thanks to Slavitt's comments.

Many believe that a bill recently signed into law by President Barack Obama allowing more flexibility when applying for a hardship exemption under Meaningful Use shows the program has run its course.

What's more, both the American Hospital Association and the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives are calling for changes to the rule that would implement Stage 3 as well as a delay of the rule.

To learn more:
- here's Halamka's post