Providers may be lacking one big, basic ingredient for a successful Stage 2 attestation: a certified EHR capable of meeting the Meaningful Use objectives. The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) has released a new data brief that highlights the relatively small number of providers operating on an updated EHR as the industry enters the second stage of the EHR Incentive Programs.
While 69% of office-based physicians reported that they intended to participate in meaningful use during a survey in 2013, only 13% of those providers also had an EHR system capable of supporting 14 of the Stage 2 core and menu objectives. While this number seems exceedingly low, one should note that the survey was conducted between February and June of 2013, long before the majority of EHR vendors had even finished developing their 2014 ONC certified technology.
However, it is no secret that it’s been an achingly slow process to get the new technology through the testing and verification process. Tight deadlines and major upgrades are slowing the adoption process for providers who have already spent big bucks on their 2011 systems.
“For the vendors, it is not like they are not trying,” said AHIMA Director of HIM Practice Excellence, Diana Warner, MS, RHIA, CHPS, FAHIMA. “I have talked to different vendors and people who work for them and they are scrambling as much as anybody else about this initiative. For the 2011 Edition Certification, there were over 1,700 ambulatory products and over 300 inpatient products that were Stage 1 Meaningful Use certified. But 2014 Edition Certification, there are maybe 75 ambulatory products and 17 inpatient products. That is a real challenge.”
Fifty-six percent of the providers surveyed by the NCHS do wish to participate in Stage 2, but they aren’t ready. Only 11.8% say they are not applying for attestation at all. The percentage of physicians planning to participate increased from 66% in 2012 to 69% in 2013, the data says.
While significant state-by-state differences in adoption rate still plague the nation, overall, EHR adoption has continued its steady march forward. The number of providers using EHRs has increased from 57% in 2011 to a respectable 78.4% of providers during the past year. The percentage of providers using a “basic EHR system” ranged from 21% in New Jersey to 83% in North Dakota. The number of providers using any type of electronic record software was somewhat higher, from 66% in New Jersey to 94% in Minnesota.
In general, providers are maintaining their momentum when it comes to health IT adoption. The slightly outdated numbers can have little bearing on the true readiness for Stage 2, especially since the data was collected before the latter two stages of the EHR Incentive Program were extended. The delay will give vendors and providers more time to upgrade and implement the necessary technology, and may be the difference between success and failure for a large number of providers.