Early Adopters Have More Time for
By Kevin Heubusch
LAST SUMMER the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT heard repeatedly from providers and vendors that hey would not have time to prepare for stage 2 of the meaning- ful use program. With a final rule on stage 2 not expected until summer 2012, vendors and hospitals did not see how they could be ready to meet the requirements in October, and eligible pro- fessionals were equally doubtful about being ready by the fol- lowing January. ONC acknowledged the conundrum, receiving recommenda- tions in June from its health IT policy committee that stage 2 deadlines be modified somehow, whether delayed outright or staggered to allow providers a longer period to comply.
The final decision on the deadline belongs to the Centers for
Medicare and Medicaid Services, which will write the final rule
on stage 2. However, as 2011 wound down, there came word of
one modification that will ease pressure on providers who successfully attested to meaningful use for calendar year 2011.
Extending the Stage 2 Deadline for Early Adopters
In late November Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that providers who adopted EHRs in
2011 and successfully attested to stage 1 of the program would
have an extra year to progress to stage 2.
Under the original rules, providers who adopted health IT in
2011 would have to comply with stage 2 measures in 2013. Providers who do not join stage 1 until 2012 have until 2014 to meet
the stage- 2 standards. Both groups, however, are eligible for the
same total incentive payments. The extension thus removes a
disincentive to joining the program early.
Under the modified deadline, providers who adopt health IT
in 2011 will have until 2014 to graduate to stage 2. The change
will give providers currently in the program an extra year to prepare. In total, early adopters will have three years in stage 1.
Further, providers attesting to meaningful use by February 28,
2012, will be eligible for the calendar year 2011 and 2012 incentive payments.
The extension will appear in the notice of proposed rulemaking on stage 2, which CMS expects to publish next month.
Delayed Start for Permanent Certification Program
The modification related to early adopters was not the only delay announced at the end of the year. ONC announced that it
would delay the start of the permanent certification program.
Originally slated to begin January 1, 2012, the program will now
launch in the summer.
With the delay, the permanent program will now coincide
with the release of new standards and certification criteria related to stage 2.
The delay also allows ONC more time to develop and approve
the authorized certifying bodies that will evaluate EHR systems
against the meaningful use requirements.
The permanent program will replace the temporary program,
which has been in place since June 2010. The date of the transition was always provisional. ONC originally declined to name a
start date, and it was clear in the final rule that it would delay it
as necessary. ONC provided the target date at the request of the
industry, which sought a date for planning purposes.
ONC made the decision to delay the program after consulting with the American National Standards Institute and the
National Institute of Standards and Technology. Both organizations play a role in accrediting organizations to test and certify
products under the permanent program.