Multi-hospital systems, rural providers feel slighted in 'meaningful use' rule

Now that the rules for "meaningful use" of EMRs are out, Congress has moved in to serve as watchdog of sorts over HHS with regards to the HITECH portion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

On Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on HITECH implementation in which lawmakers heard criticisms from multi-site health systems that the stipulation that they be counted as a single entity for the purpose of calculating incentive payments was unfair to them. Rural providers also expressed concern that they may not be able to avoid penalties for not achieving meaningful use of EMRs by 2015.

According to iHealthBeat, CQ HealthBeat reported that committee member Rep. Zach Space (D-Ohio) said that more than 240 lawmakers have signed a letter to HHS contending that each hospital should be counted as its own facility under the final rule, regardless of whether it is part of a multi-hospital system.

Others questioned whether the EMR certification program would be ready in time for them to qualify for Stage 1 incentives, which, for hospitals, begin in just over three months.

Last week, HHS officials, including national health IT coordinator Dr. David Blumenthal, told the House Ways and Means Committee's health subcommittee that the rules were a work in progress, meant to evolve over the life of the incentive program. There will be two more sets of regulations, covering Stage 2 (2013-14) and Stage 3 (2015-16).

For more information:
- see this House Energy and Commerce Committee page on the hearing, with links to written testimony
- read this AHA News brief
- take a look at this iHealthBeat summary of the hearing
- here's a NextGov story on last week's Ways and Means hearing