Sebelius touts increased EHR use, no mention of Stage 2 MU

A lot of folks in the health IT community probably were disappointed today when Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, failed to announce the notice of proposed rule making (NPRM) for Stage 2 of the Meaningful Use regs. Earlier in the day, Health Data Management had quoted unnamed sources as saying that Sebelius would do so today.

At press time, an HHS spokesman told FierceHealthIT that the Stage 2 NPRM "is in the clearance process." But that means the NPRM is almost ready to go, and it might even be dropped on the community at next week's HIMSS conference in Las Vegas. Now that would be interesting in the midst of the health IT industry's biggest annual meeting.

There will be several opportunities for government officials to make the announcement, including during a "CMS Town Hall" on Tuesday, an "ONC Town Hall" on Wednesday, or during the keynote speech on Thursday by Farzad Mostashari, MD, the national coordinator of health information technology.

Experts believe that the proposed Stage 2 criteria will be pretty much what the Health IT Policy Committee suggested last summer. In brief, that means that what was optional in the Stage 1 requirements will become mandatory, and there will be some new criteria such as electronic physician documentation.

Meanwhile, Sebelius did announce that the number of hospitals using electronic health records in the last two years has more than doubled from 16 percent to 35 percent. Nearly 2,000 hospitals and more than 41,000 doctors have received $3.1 billion in incentive payments for ensuring Meaningful Use of health IT, according to HHS. Eighty-five percent of hospitals have indicated they plan to apply for the Meaningful Use incentives.

HHS also detailed the latest statistics on the government's health IT workforce training programs. As of January 2012, over 9,000 community college students have been trained for health IT careers and another 8,706 students have enrolled. 

As of this month, participating universities have enrolled over 1,200 students and graduated nearly 600 post-graduate and masters-level health IT professionals, with over 1,700 expected to graduate by the summer of 2013.

To learn more:
- read the HHS announcement
- see the Health Data Management story
- check out a CSC brief on Stage 2 of Meaningful Use (.pdf)
- see the latest CSC information on provider readiness (.pdf)