The number of providers attesting to Meaningful Use in 2014 is still lackluster, with 43,898 eligible professionals (EPs) and 1,903 eligible hospitals (EHs) attesting for the 2014 reporting period, as of Nov. 1, despite the fact that there are now more than 500,000 active registrants signed up for the Meaningful Use program, according to the latest data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
Of those attesters, just 11,478 EPs and 840 EHs attested to Stage 2 of Meaningful Use.
Elisabeth Myers, in CMS' Office of standards and Services, reported to the Health IT Policy Committee Nov. 4 that more than $25 billion in incentive payments have been made through Sept. 30. She also reiterated that it will be hard to identify which stage providers are attesting to until the attestation period closes because it's hard to project which providers are taking advantage of the new flexibility rule, which relaxes the requirements for attesting to Stage 2.
The attestation numbers are up from July, where only 972 EPs and 10 hospitals that had attested for the 2014 reporting year had attested to Stage 2.
Dawn Heisey-Grove with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, pointed out that most providers wait until the "last minute" to attest, so that the agency expects the numbers to increase.
EHs only have until Nov. 30 to attest for 2014.
It also appears that providers are leery of new measures in Stage 2 or of menu measures that have now become core objectives. Fully, 87 percent of EPs attesting to Stage 2 took the exclusion for summary of care provided or sent electronically. More than half (54 percent) took the exclusion on the Stage 2 core immunization reporting measure, but for most of them that was because they don't administer the required number of immunizations, according to Heisey-Grove.
National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo, chair of the committee, reiterated that health IT and ONC "remain a priority" for HHS and for the country.
Still, upon release of the latest figures, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives--in unison with the American Medical Association, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society and the Medical Group Management Association--called the numbers "disappointing, yet predictable." All four organizations renewed calls for more program flexibility and to shorten the reporting period in 2015.
"Meaningful Use participation data released today have validated the concerns of providers and IT leaders. These numbers continue to underscore the need for a sensible glide-path in 2015," CHIME President and CEO Russell Branzell said in a statement. "Providers have struggled mightily in 2014, in many instances for reasons beyond their control. If nothing is done to help them get back on track in 2015, we will continue to see growing dissatisfaction with EHRs and disenchantment with Meaningful Use."
Added HIMSS Executive Vice President Carla Smith, "If CMS continues to require a full-year of Meaningful Use reporting for 2015, we anticipate that large segments of providers will no longer be able to participate in the program--which hinders our nation's ability to improve the quality, safety, cost-effectiveness, and access to care."
Providers have been struggling to transition to Stage 2 of the Meaningful Use program all year; many providers have become increasingly frustrated with the program and with their EHRs.