Electronic Health Records

Policy & Regulation News

Meaningful Use Flexibility Drove EHR Replacement Increase

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

- The inability to obtain a 2014 Edition certified EHR technology (CEHRT) to satisfy meaningful use requirements for the most recent program year led to an increase in the number of eligible professionals (EPs) and hospitals (EHs) opting for EHR replacement systems, according to data from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

ONC data shows EHR replacement as a trend among eligible providers in 2014

ONC Public Health Analyst Dustin Charles provided the Health IT Policy Committee with a data update on the ability of eligible providers were capable of using their current EHR vendors to transition to 2014 CEHRT and the approach these providers took to updating their EHR systems to appropriate 2014 Edition before the deadline for their reporting period.

As the findings reveal, the decision by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to publish the meaningful use flexibility rule in 2014 increased the likelihood that providers could obtain 2014 CEHRT from their current EHR vendors.

Between October 2013 and July 2014, the percentage of EHs capable of updating their EHR systems to 2014 CEHRT jumped from 90 percent to 98 percent, respectively.

CEHRT obtainability for eligible hospitals (EHs)

The increase was more sizeable for EPs. Between January 2014 and December 2014, the percentage of these providers that could update their EHR systems to 2014 CEHRT increased by 17 percent. According to Charles, this did not come as a surprise to ONC.

CEHRT obtainability for eligible professionals (EPs)

“This is not unreasonable,” he told the advisory committee. “The EP market is much larger. There are hundreds of thousands of EPs and also the vendor base is much more diverse, with nearly 600 vendors for EPs compared to maybe 150 for the hospitals.”

What did come as a surprise, however, was the percentage of eligible providers opting to implement EHR products from different EHR vendors in order to meet meaningful use reporting requirements established by the flexibility rule.

As many as 20 percent and 18 percent of EHs and EPs, respectively, choosing the meaningful use flexibility rule actually had 2014 CERHT in place already. Another 67 percent and 63 percent of EHs and EPs, respectively, chose to update products from the same EHR vendors. Those figures put the percentage of EHs and EPs able to stay with the same EHR vendors at 96 percent 89 percent, respectively.

The remainder opted to obtain products from new EHR vendors. “This is a little bit higher than we predicted previously,” said Charles in reference to earlier data showing the obtainability of 2014 CEHRT.

Eligible providers and CERHT for flexibility rule

What’s more, a review of EHR systems used by eligible providers to attest to meaningful use over the past few years shows a growing trend toward EHR replacement, especially among EPs. For these providers, the percentage choosing to change all EHR vendors jumped from 2 percent in 2013 to 8 percent in 2014. Similarly, the percentage choosing to change at least one EHR vendor increased from 3 percent to 8 percent during that same period of time.

EHR vendor changes for EHs also took place during that time. In 2014, 4 percent of EHs changed all vendors as compared to 0 percent in 2013. More sizeable was the percentage increase of EHs changing at least one EHR vendor, which skyrocketed from 10 percent in 2013 to 36 percent in 2014.

It appears that the faith of eligible providers in their EHR vendors wavered over the past year and motivated EPs and EHs to look elsewhere for solutions to meeting meaningful use in 2014.

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