Stakeholders divided on speed of implementing Meaningful Use

Pressure is ramping up on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to reassess the current implementation timelines for the next stages of the Meaningful Use program, with industry stakeholders and others using a Senate hearing on patient care to call for a reexamination of the issue.

At the hearing, before the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance July 24, both vendor and provider representatives lauded the use of electronic health records to improve patient care, but recommended that the deadlines for Stages 2 and 3 of the Meaningful Use incentive program be extended and that he program be made more flexible. For instance, John Glaser, CEO of health services for Siemens Healthcare, testified that implementing an EHR system is "complicated" and "challenging" and should not be rushed.

The National Partnership for Women and Families, however, asked in a statement that the program not be delayed.

The hearing was the second of two hearings on the use of health IT to improve care. In the first, held July 17, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) suggested that the Meaningful Use program be paused and reassessed. National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari, who attended the hearing, defended the program and the current implementation timeframes.

In yesterday's hearing, Hatch again expressed concern about the "unintended consequences" of government programs despite the right intentions and that the right timelines were necessary.

"Providers cannot afford to waste resources on systems that quickly become out of date as CMS and ONC change requirements over time," he said. "And vendors should be afforded very clear instructions as to what is expected as part of a certified system."

Several CIOs testified this week before ONC's Health IT Policy and Standards Committees this week that they need more time to comply with Meaningful Use Stage 2.

To learn more:
- here are the hearing materials
- here's the statement from the National Partnership for Women and Families