With July now upon us, the start of the federal EMR incentive program is looming just three months down the road for hospitals and six months for physician practices. Financial penalties for failing to achieve "meaningful use" of EMRs don't start for four more years after that, yet eight in 10 hospital CIOs are concerned that they won't be able to meet the 2015 deadline, a new PricewaterhouseCoopers survey indicates.
Overwhelming majorities of CIOs also wonder if they'll be able to meet federal reporting requirements to qualify for the incentive payment and are concerned that the path to meaningful use isn't well defined.
Though about half of the 120 CIOs surveyed, all of whom belong to the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, expect to show meaningful use and apply for stimulus dollars in 2011, many worried about their abilities to meet the tougher Stage 2 and Stage 3 requirements that will take effect for fiscal years 2013 and 2015, respectively. Though CMS hasn't specified what the later stages will encompass, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act says meaningful use must eventually include advancing care processes via clinical decision support, the ability to populate personal health records, and outcomes improvement via data sharing.
CIOs generally believe that the existing health IT infrastructure isn't good enough to support such advanced functions, PwC reports, plus many healthcare organizations are unable to see the bigger picture right now. "Healthcare organizations are building high-performance race cars to travel back country roads," Daniel Garrett, leader of PwC's health IT practice, says in a written statement. "Furthermore, we found many healthcare providers are mired in the complexity of incentive-rule criteria and may not be working toward longer-term goals for meaningful EHR usage.
"The bottom line is improved quality of care and patient safety, delivered more efficiently. Government leaders and health organizations need to give consideration to the ultimate goal as they work to finalize and meet guidelines for meaningful use," Garrett adds.