On November 30, U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that HHS intends to delay implementation of Stage 2 of Meaningful Use of electronic health records (EHR) until 2014. Under previous rules, physicians who achieved meaningful use in 2011 would have had to move to the higher Stage 2 standard in 2013.
Meaningful use is the set of criteria on which physicians must report in order to receive federal incentive payments for EHR adoption. What is currently published as meaningful use is known as Stage 1. Later stages will include more reporting measures and higher standards.
The California Medical Association (CMA) Information Technology Council filed comments earlier this year with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT asking for just such a delay. CMA believes that many physicians will have a difficult time achieving Stage 1, and the delay will give them more time to adjust their practices to the new electronic environment. According to Sebelius, these policy changes will be accompanied by greater outreach efforts by HHS that will provide more information to doctors about best practices. In communities across the country, HHS will target outreach, education and training to Medicare-eligible professionals who have registered in the EHR Incentive Program but have not yet met the requirements for meaningful use.
Under the Medicare EHR Incentive Program, physicians can receive incentive payments as high as $44,000. Meaningful use is the necessary foundation for all impending payment changes involving patient-centered medical homes, accountable care organizations, bundled payments and value-based purchasing.
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