National provider orgs 'plead' with HHS for Meaningful Use extension

Nearly 50 of the nation's most influential provider organizations--including the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and the Medical Group Management Association--are asking for a front-end extension to Meaningful Use Stage 2 in a letter sent to U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

>> RELATED: CMS' Robert Tagalicod hints at Meaningful Use 'relief' announcement at HIMSS

In an exclusive interview with FierceHealthIT, Jeff Smith, director of federal relations for CHIME, said the letter represents every corner of the provider world.

According to a CHIME announcement, the organizations want HHS to:

  • Extend timelines for providers to implement 2014 Edition Certified EHR software and meet the program's requirements--Stages 1 and 2--through 2015
  • Add flexibility to the Meaningful Use requirements that enable "as many providers as possible" to achieve success in the program

"Given that we are well into 2014, immediate attention to these concerns is warranted," the letter states. "This additional time and new flexibility are vitally important to ensure that hospitals and physicians continue moving forward with technology to improve patient care."

Smith told FierceHealthIT that it will take a coalition of this magnitude to get the government's attention.

"We've got hospitals that range from academic medical to rural and critical access, public health hospitals," Smith said. "Then on the physician side, we've got everybody from internists to generalists to specialists."

CHIME has been talking to the government about the burdens of implementing Meaningful Use for more than nine months, Smith said. "Since May of 2013, we have been pretty forceful about how this impending situation is really the culmination of a bunch of different programs coming together at the end of the year."

During a keynote session at the CHIME CIO Forum on Sunday, Robert Tagalicod, director of the office of e-health standards and services at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said that there will be an announcement on Thursday about Meaningful Use "under the rubric of relief."

Tagalicod and Jacob Reider, M.D., chief medical officer at the office of the national coordinator, responded to questions about Meaningful Use and other health IT regulations with the usual "we're listening" and "we've heard the message" and "we understand the burden" lines.

"It was brief and it was vague and unfortunately, I don't really know much more," Smith told FierceHealthIT of Tagalicod's comment.

"We've spoken with them many, many times on this issue. They kind of do what they did yesterday, which is saying that they hear you. And you kind of feel good about that for a little while, but then you start to notice that nothing's actually happening. One of the big things we want to try to figure out is 'Why not?'" he said.

"I'm certainly not privy to any announcements at this point, but the fact that Rob Tagalicod did mention something yesterday is at least encouraging," Smith added. "But we also want to make sure that that statement wasn't just meant to be kind of a pressure release valve."

To learn more:
- here's the letter (.pdf)
- read the CHIME announcement