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From Health Law Daily, February 26, 2014

Medical groups seek EHR and Meaningful Use implementation extensions

By Greg Hammond, JD

Forty-eight medical groups have expressed concern to Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius regarding their ability to adopt the 2014 Edition of Certified Electronic Health Record Technology (CEHRT) and comply with a higher level of Meaningful Use criteria. “We fear the success of the program is in jeopardy,” stated the groups, “if steps are not taken now to address our shared concerns.”

According to the letter sent to Secretary Sebelius, over 5,000 hospitals and 550,000 eligible professionals are required to adopt the 2014 Edition of CEHRT, and failure to comply will result in incentive payment loss and significant penalties. However, because only a portion of 2011 Edition products are currently certified to 2014 Edition standards, the medical groups assert that vendors and support providers will be unable to meet the new standards. Consequently, this will hinder “the ability of providers to manage the transition to the 2014 Edition CEHRT and Stage 2 in a safe and orderly manner.”

Recommendations. “Our members’ number one priority must be to provide safe and high quality care to patients,” stated the groups. In order to prevent providers from either abandoning their goals to meet Meaningful Use criteria in 2014 or being forced to rapidly implement a new system, which could prove unsafe for patients, the groups set forth two recommendations: (1) extend timelines through 2015 for 2014 Edition Certified EHR software and Stages 1 and 2 Program requirement implementation; and (2) increase flexibility in Meaningful Use requirements so as many providers as possible can achieve success in the program.

In support of their recommendations, the groups note that “providers need adequate time to learn how to use the newly deployed technology, including examining staff assignments, workflows, and practice processes.” Further, the “all or nothing” approach – “where missing a single objective by even a small amount results in failure for the program year” – compounds their concerns. Consequently, the medical groups request immediate attention from HHS to ensure that providers may continue their progress with technology to improve patient care.

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