The Office of the National Coordinator has called 2012 the “Year of Meaningful Use”. But despite the proliferation of EHRs and more than $9 billion in CMS incentive payouts, Stage 1 is only the beginning. In 2013, providers will need to begin to think about 2014’s more stringent requirements, including patient engagement criteria and higher thresholds for previous objectives. EHRIntelligence surveyed our readers to find out what their major concerns were for 2013, and “Stage 2 survival” came out on top.
There are seventeen core objectives that all providers must meet in order to be eligible for financial incentives from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). These range from recording the tobacco use status of patients to providing a summary of care record for each transaction or referral. Some of the objectives, such as using computerized provider order entry (CPOE) and submitting electronic data to immunization registries, may require practices to invest in new hardware and data infrastructures, presenting a financial and logistical challenge. Providers must also meet three out of the six menu requirements to successfully attest.
Patient engagement figured highly on the list of reader concerns. With a brand new requirement asking providers to ensure that 10% of their patients take advantage of online educational resources and 5% view, download, or share their online health records, Stage 2 puts a heavy focus on patient involvement. Some providers are worried about meeting these criteria, protesting that their patients aren’t interested or that they have no control over their customers’ activities. Nonetheless, it remains mandatory. In order to prepare themselves, some readers are planning to create online portals and request that patients “adhere to accessing their PHRs and providing feedback to meet Stage 2 requirements.”
Even though providers are keeping an eye on 2014, when Stage 2 comes into effect, 2013 still affords the opportunity for physicians who haven’t adopted EHRs yet to hop on the meaningful use bandwagon. “2013 is a year for people to really get on board before they have to worry about the requirements of Stage 2. So we believe that we’ll continue to see growth in 2013,” says Elizabeth Holland, Director of the HIT Initiative Group at CMS. “If it’s their first year, people have until 2014, so hospitals can come in as late as July 1 and eligible professionals (EPs) as late as October 1.”
While CMS suggests that providers don’t wait that long to begin upgrading their systems to meet Stage 1 meaningful use requirements, 2013 will be a transitional year for many physicians in many ways. Whether it’s implementing a certified EHR system, upgrading to new software, revamping an entire data infrastructure, or urging patients to involve themselves in their care, providers will need to conquer myriad challenges in the next twelve months, leaving healthcare professionals to wonder whether or not the ONC will add 2013 to their list of successes.