March 5, 2012
The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Meaningful Use Stage 2 was released at HIMSS a few weeks ago and the internet has been buzzing with the news ever since. I’m not going to attempt to summarize the 455-page rule in this post, but there are a few major differences between stage 1 and stage 2 that are worth noting.
Greater flexibility. ONC heard the feedback coming from the specialists who were having a difficult time meeting requirements designed for primary care. Because primary care is such a big part of the physician market, meaningful use will continue to target that audience (as it should), but specialists will be exempted from meeting requirements that don’t pertain to their specialty.
Increased security efforts. Lack of security is one of the biggest barriers to EHR adoptions. EHR vendors should already be incorporating security standards like encryption and password protection into their software, but those efforts will be required once physicians make it to stage 2. All devices will have to be encrypted, including smartphones and tablets.
Aligning of initiatives. As healthcare has moved toward more coordinated care, physicians have had to juggle many different initiatives, including ACOs, ICD-10, PQRS, and e-prescribing. Rather than be a competing initiative, meaningful use aims to complement these programs. MU will align with these programs so physicians won’t have to report similar data to several different agencies.
Interoperability. Stage 1 meaningful use was designed to make sure physicians were using their EHRs. Stage 2, on the other hand, is designed to encourage health information exchange. Electronic exchange of information is one of the biggest promises of the future of healthcare. With standardized terminology for various data elements as well as new HL7 standards, data sharing across vendor lines would be more achievable.
Farzad Mostashari often reminds us that meaningful use is about more than checking requirements off a list. It’s about paving the road toward better healthcare. Certified EHRs allow us to do things we can’t do with paper that improve patient outcomes and workflow efficiency. There are still some kinks that need to be worked through, but meaningful use is getting better at helping providers improve outcomes.