CIOs question Meaningful Use Stage 2 extension

Reaction from hospital executives was mixed following Friday's announcement from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services of a proposed extension of Meaningful Use Stage 2 through 2016. The proposal also calls for Stage 3 to be rolled out in 2017, but only for providers who have completed at least two years in Stage 2.

>>RELATED: CMS--Stage 2 timeline extension won't slow down implementation

Indranil Ganguly, vice president and CIO at Edison, N.J.-based JFK Health System and a FierceHealthIT Editorial Advisory Board member, wondered if the change does anything to ease the burden on hospitals struggling to comply with the federal mandate, given that it only extends the deadline for Stage 2 through 2016.

"I'm not sure this news changes anything for us," Ganguly (right) said in an interview with FierceHealthIT. "We would still have to comply by that timeframe or risk missing a payment cycle."

Indeed, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives took the same stance as Ganguly upon hearing Friday's news, calling the proposal disappointing. CHIME reiterated that eligible hospitals and professionals need flexibility in meeting the start date of Stage 2, in particular, another year to "install, test, implement and operationalize" newly certified electronic health record systems.

"There is a perfect storm brewing," CHIME President and CEO Russell Branzell said in a statement. "With ICD-10 compliance coming into view, with HIPAA compliance demanding renewed attention and with all the activities associated with the Affordable Care Act converging in 2014, providers are nearing a breaking point. Flexibility of the kind announced today is beneficial for Stage 3, but Stage 2 start-date flexibility is needed to ensure long-term success."

However, John Halamka (left), CIO at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, applauded the proposed change, saying that it would better align the Meaningful Use program with the regulatory mandates mentioned by Branzell.

"I believe this extension will enable us to consolidate our gains, learn from past experience and prepare our organizations for the new workflows required by Stage 2," he told FierceHealthIT.

In a blog post written shortly after the announcement, Halamka went on to call the proposal "a first step in the fine-tuning of the national healthcare IT timeline."

Boston-based healthcare attorney David Harlow (right), meanwhile, analyzed the proposal as "a rational step to acknowledge the real-world issues" providers must deal with in addition to Meaningful Use.

"The 'Great Leap Forward' approach might look good on paper, but implementation is a bear," Harlow told FierceHealthIT.

To learn more:
- check out CHIME's announcement