The closer we get to stage 2 meaningful use, the more physician associations speak up about the timeline. Stage 2, after being delayed once already, is set to begin in 2014.
The only problem is, most of the industry isn’t ready. Many EHR vendors are still in the process of re-certifying their products, and EPs are trying to juggle upcoming deadlines for meaningful use, ICD-10, and accountable care organizations as well.
However, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is showing no signs that any changes will be made to stage 2 meaningful use. And not all physicians agree that a delay is the right course of action.
There are valid points to both sides of the argument, though.
Arguments supporting a stage 2 delay
- A delay will give EHR vendors more time to re-certify their products and push software updates. If the vendor isn’t ready, EPs will not be able to demonstrate meaningful use, and may face penalties in 2015.
- A delay will also give EPs more time to prepare for other major initiatives, like ICD-10.
- If the program moves too fast, many practices and hospitals—especially those in rural areas—may be left behind.
Arguments against a stage 2 delay
- It is critical to keep the momentum going. A pause in the program will hurt the healthcare industry in the long run.
- Many providers have already dedicated a lot of time and money to preparing for meaningful use stage 2.
- HHS has already delayed stage 2 once, and providers and EHR vendors have known about the meaningful use timeline for over two years.
Some physician organizations, like MGMA and HIMSS, have come up with blended alternatives, such as starting stage 2 on time but extending the attestation period. Other groups have suggested that HHS soften the “all or nothing” approach to meeting measure percentages so more can qualify for incentive payments.
At this point, there’s no telling if any changes will be made to the meaningful use stage 2 timeline. The next few months, though, should be telling.
Regardless of what happens with the meaningful use program, one thing is certain: providers and vendors should continue preparing for stage 2 as if nothing has changed. Even if HHS does extend the stage 2 timeline, it is unlikely to be for long, and it is always best to be prepared.