Meaningful Use Stage 1 confusion doesn't bode well for Stage 2

As the clock ticks down toward the May 7 deadline for commenting on the proposed Stage 2 Meaningful Use rules, reports that express concern about the program seem to be rising.

The latest warning cry, this time from consulting giant KMPG, reveals that many hospitals and health systems--arguably the more sophisticated providers eligible for the incentive program--don't even understand the requirements for Stage 1 of Meaningful Use, let alone believe that they'll successfully attest to them. But evidently these results are not surprising, and mirror reports elsewhere, Mike Beaty, Principal at KPMG and Health IT Enablement Leader tells FierceEMR.

"It's more complicated than just transitioning to a certified [electronic health record]," he explains.

For instance, many of the hospitals polled by KMPG were experiencing trouble with critical quality measures data, computerized physician order entry (CPOE), and providing medical records to patients upon request, just to name a few stumbling blocks.

And this is just in Stage 1 of Meaningful Use, the easiest stage. Will providers really be able to meet the criteria for Stage 2 and beyond? That's still up in the air.

"If they're not complying with Stage 1, Stage 2 will be harder," Beaty warns. For instance, he notes, there are more critical quality measures in Stage 2  and patient engagement becomes more important.

Are we perhaps losing perspective of the bigger picture? Moving to EHRs provides many clinical benefits both for individual patients and for the population as a whole. Is the incentive program--with its carrot and stick approach--obscuring what the industry really should be focused on? Should it be so heavily skewed toward the money?

For instance, we know that the Meaningful Use incentive payments--and not the benefits of EHRs--are the main driver to EHR adoption. But that may be short sighted, Beaty tells FierceEMR.

"It's not just Meaningful Use," he says. "There's a usability aspect, a functional benefit to EHRs. This will present a positive intellectual challenge. This is a new asset.

"How can you use it to benefit your business?" he asks. "How can providers capitalize on this?"

Beaty points out that many of these initiatives, such as Meaningful Use, the move to ICD-10, and alternative care delivery models, all relate to the use of electronic data to inform decisions, standardize data capture and reporting, and perform analytics. He suggests that as providers get more comfortable with EHRs, that they use the data to make clinical decisions, analyze their service lines and determine what accountable care organizations to join.

But if providers are preoccupied with meeting Meaningful Use, will they have the energy and resources to really take advantage of  what their EHRs have to offer? Is the incentive program on the right track?

I don't know. But I do know that you have only days to let CMS know your views and have them count.

Please consider commenting--yea or nay. - Marla