Providers, associations react to Meaningful Use Stage 2 final rule

Reaction from healthcare providers and associations alike has been pouring in following the publication of the final rule for Stage 2 of Meaningful Use by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. While hospital executives like Drex DeFord, CIO of Boston-based Steward Health Care, haven't had even 24 hours to digest the massive, 672-page document, initial responses, thus far, have been mostly positive.

DeFord told FierceHealthIT in an email that after the release of the proposed rule in February, he had particular interest about the timing of the rules and the 365-day attestation requirement. "I felt it was impossible for, not only providers, but [also] vendors, given what was a significantly compressed timeline," DeFord said. "The good news is, my initial read is that they listened, and we've got some breathing room to make the transition to Stage 2 code, giving us more time to plan and do the work better."

John Halamka, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, also in Boston, wrote in a blog post that with regard to the standards and certification criteria published by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, "the vocabulary, transport, and content standards" lined up perfectly with recommendations made by the Health IT Standards Committee.

Halamka seemed particularly interested in the fact that Simple Mail Transfer Protocol--which now is part of the base EHR definition--will be the required transport standard for all certified electronic health records. "[A]ll EHR technology used by [eligible providers, eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals] that meets the [Certified Electronic Health Record Technology] definition will, at a minimum, be capable of SMTP-based exchange," he said.

Organization reaction, too, has been generally positive. The College of Healthcare Information Executives, of which DeFord serves as chairperson for the board of trustees, was happy that CMS added more measures to the menu set, and that they implemented a 90-day EHR reporting period for 2014 for providers to demonstrate Meaningful Use. The American Health Information Management Association, meanwhile, praised the decision to maintain patient engagement requirements, even though the threshold for those requirements was lowered.

"We believe patients must be partners and work side-by-side with their providers to achieve the best possible healthcare outcomes," AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon said in a statement.

However, Indranil Ganguly, CIO at Freehold, N.J.-based CentraState Healthcare System, told FierceHealthIT in an email that he was disappointed by the patient engagement measures. "I understand the desire to drive patients online and change behavior, but feel that it is unreasonable to put that burden on the healthcare provider," he said.

Additionally, the American Hospital Association said the final rule makes the path toward IT adoption for hospitals "more challenging."

"We are disappointed that this rule sets an unrealistic date by which hospitals must achieve the initial Meaningful Use requirements to avoid penalties," Linda Fishman, senior vice president of public policy, analysis and development for AHA, said in a statement. "In addition, CMS complicated the reporting of clinical quality measures and added to the Meaningful Use objectives, creating significant new burdens."

To learn more:
- here's Halamka's blog post
- read the CHIME announcement
- check out the AHIMA announcement
- here's the AHA's announcement


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