AHA Says Meaningful Use Schedule Is Too Ambitious

Posted on May 4, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Wow. The American Hospital Association is stepping into the picture this late in the game to complain that Meaningful Use rules are imposing massive pressure on its members?  The AHA isn’t known for its reticence, after all. But anyway, it appears that this week the trade group has jumped in and started swinging.

AHA’s executive vice president and complainer-in-chief Rick Pollack sent a 68-page letter to the Obama administration this week complaining about the burden of the Meaningful Use program.

Why can’t hospitals force their way through the process to get their bucks (which, after all, can be as much as $11.5m)? Pollack apparently cited  “the high bar set and market factors, such as accelerating costs and limited vendor capacity” in his list of concerns.

He could just have easily cited a bunch of other obstacles we’ve covered here, including a lack of staff available to implement EMR projects, demands placed by the ICD-9 to ICD-10 or maybe even the fact that $11.5 million doesn’t do nearly enough to defray the sticker price on, say, an Epic installation for a mid-sized hospital (Assuming the mid-sized hospital can convince Epic to let them use their EHR software).

Given these factors, I have to agree with the AHA: it doesn’t make a lot of sense to start penalizing hospitals with non-qualifying EMRs by 2015, an eye-blink in time when it comes to planning enterprise software installations and upgrades.

So, what should the administration do?  Certainly, moving deadlines up further would be a sweet gesture, but unless hospitals had five to seven years to carry this thing through, it will still feel like eating glass for many hospitals. And of course, if the Obama administration were to do such a thing, should it offer extra bonuses to the 20 percent of hospitals which have somehow managed to meet MU criteria?  There’s far, far more questions than answers to consider here.

Honestly, I would have expected to hear this schpiel, which I sympathize with greatly, a long time ago.  Maybe it just took this long for a major news organ like Bloomberg Businessweek to understand the issues and pipe up.