In a move that shouldn’t surprise anybody, the American Hospital Association is urging CMS and the ONC to hurry up and finalize new rules which would expand choice for certified EMRs.
The AHA letter argues that its members are on the verge of walking away from Meaningful Use. But if CMS and the ONC speed ahead with with the new proposed rules — which would offer more choice in specific meaningful use requirements they must meet this year — hospitals will be much better equipped to proceed.
Why the rush? Well, for one thing, the letter argues, time is of the essence for hospitals, which have to decide their meaningful use strategy for fiscal 2014. If they must make choices before the new rule is finalized, it could cause them “significant financial and operational harm,” the AHA contends.
Meanwhile, if the agencies don’t push these rules through quickly, “many providers are likely to conclude that they cannot meet meaningful use this year and abandon the program,” wrote Linda Fishman, AHA senior vice president of public policy analysis and development, in a letter to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner and National Coordinator Karen DeSalvo, MD.
The letter also takes on other issues. It asks that CMS and ONC clarify the rules implementation, offer more flexibility in the reporting of clinical quality measures, shorten the MU reporting period for 2015 in analyze lessons learned from Stage 2 before finalizing Stage 3’s start date, according to HealthcareITNews.
The AHA’s letter comes at a challenging time for the meaningful use program generally, which has of late attracted broader attention than it has in the past.
Not only are industry groups pressuring ONC, legislators are too. For example, at a recent health IT conference, U.S. Rep Tom Price, MD, R-GA, argued that meaningful use is “maybe not even doing what needs to be done as it relates to patients and physicians.”
In his remarks, Price argued that meaningful use could be improved by keeping the patient front and center, making sure patients know they own their health data and establishing an interoperability standard. But he suggests that because the MU program roadmap was laid out in the HITECH Act, it’s not as fluid as it should be and doesn’t accommodate such concerns.
The reality, however, is that there is no simple way to get interoperability; right now, we’re lucky if individual EMRs meet providers’ needs. Despite the demands from other stakeholders, health IT vendors still have a lot more to gain by creating islands rather than interoperable products.