Electronic Health Records

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HELP Committee Again Seeks Delay of Stage 3 Meaningful Use

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

- The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions is back investigating obstacles in the way of realizing the potential of health information technology to improve the quality and cost of care and so too is the HELP Committee's call for delaying Stage 3 Meaningful Use.

HELP Committee seeks delay for Stage 3 Meaningful Use

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chairman of the Senate HELP Committee, has called for the Stage 3 Meaningful Use final rule to be delayed until January 1, 2017, echoing its remarks on the EHR Incentive Programs earlier this year.

"Patients need an interoperable system that enables doctors and hospitals to share their electronic health records, but the government, doctors and hospitals need time to do it right," Alexander stated in a hearing Wednesday on patient access to health information. "Some hospitals have told me they are 'terrified' by the prospect of stage three.  It does not help patients to makes these massive changes fast and wrong.  It does help patients to do this deliberately and correctly so that hospitals and doctors embrace the changes instead of dread them."

The concerns of the HELP Committee come nearly two weeks after the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) submitted for review by the Office of Management and Budget their plans for modifying meaningful use requirements between 2015 and 2017 and setting unified requirements for Stage 3 Meaningful Use.

Those meaningful use modifications include a 90-day reporting period for eligible professionals and hospitals and aligned meaningful use reporting periods to the calendar for both sets of providers. Until now, EHs have reported according to the fiscal year while EPs have reported according to the calendar year. In particular, the proposed meaningful use modificaitons reduce patient engagement thresholds from five percent of patients to a single patient.

"Finally, it streamlines the program by removing reporting requirements on measures which have become redundant, duplicative, or topped out through advancements in EHR function and provider performance for Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs," the OMB abstract for the propose rule states.

The complexity of Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements is reason that the HELP Committee is currently scrunitizing aspects of the EHR Incentive Programs, Alexander claimed.

"Our senate health committee has held five hearings on this electronic health records program," Alexander said.  "Many of those who testified have urged us to delay making final these stage three requirements in order to really help patients. I look forward to working with Senator Murray, Secretary Burwell and other members of the administration on finding the best ways to modify this program and these requirements."

In his remarks, Alexander called for phased approach for implementing Stage 3 Meaningful Use requirements "that reflects how successfully the program is being implemented." He also called for changes to Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements to be made immediately.

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