Federal health IT officials announced last week that stage 2 of the “meaningful use” EHR Incentive Program will be extended through 2016, with stage 3 starting in 2017 for those who have completed two years of stage 2. The move extends stage 2 for one year beyond the original end date, and pushes back the start date of stage 3.
The delay was welcomed by lawmakers and provider groups who had been pushing for delays for months. But back in July, former Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) head Farzad Mostashari, MD, insisted that the meaningful use program stay on its original timeline in a Senate hearing. In the hearing, Mostashari said he feared that delaying implementation of the program “would stall progress that’s been hard fought.”
Judy Murphy, RN, FACMI, FHIMSS, FAAN, deputy national coordinator for programs and policy at ONC, does not view the delay in meaningful use’s timeline as a setback. Instead, she points to the program’s successes to date.
“We actually have a joint goal that we monitor and track against with CMS and I think we’re both very pleased with the numbers, particularly in the provider space,” Murphy said in an interview with the Journal of AHIMA. “Look at the kind of progress we’re getting, and to know we’re already outlaying $17 billion (in incentive payments) is actually quite good, and that is the October number given at a policy committee meeting last week.”
In a jointly written blog post announcing the program’s altered timeline, Robert Tagalicod, director of the office of e-health standards and services at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and Jacob Reider, MD, acting ONC national coordinator, outlined benefits of the proposed delay:
• More analysis of feedback from stakeholders on stage 2 progress and outcomes
• More available data on stage 2 adoption and measure calculations—especially on new patient engagement measures and health information exchange objectives
• More consideration of potential stage 3 requirements
• Additional time for preparation for enhanced stage 3 requirements
• Ample time for developers to create and distribute certified EHR technology before stage 3 begins, and incorporate lessons learned about usability and customization