Stage 2 Meaningful Use- An Overview

July 10, 2012

Meaningful use is a hot topic for health information technology professionals everywhere as they strive to oversee the adoption and implementation of EHR policies and operations that will advance the care their facilities provide and allow them to receive Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments along the way.  As we discussed in our previous blog, meaningful use is broadly defined by the government as providers needing “to show they’re using certified EHR technology in ways that can be measured significantly in quality and in quantity” (see the HRSA website for more information) and is scheduled to be rolled out in three phases.  While Stage 1 began in 2011, many facilities are putting effort into attesting to Stage 2, which encompasses its own set of criteria that must be met in order to receive monetary bonuses.

Stage 2 Meaningful Use Timing
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) announced at the beginning of this year that Stage 2 criteria must be met by 2014 in order to avoid penalties (see more information here).  This date was actually pushed back from its original timeframe, allowing healthcare organizations to stay on Stage 1 until 2013.  This delay has been the subject of debate within the industry and rightfully so as there are many electronically advanced facilities who are ready to move forward with the new national standards as well as many facilities who will benefit from gift of time to align with Stage 2 objectives.

Stage 2 Focus
Regardless of where a facility falls in the process of meeting Stage 2 criteria, everyone involved will still be working towards the same goals.  Proposed focuses for Stage 2 include increasing patient safety through updated certification criteria, improving data portability, and increasing price transparency with regard to certified complete EHRs or EHR modules.  In addition, Stage 2 will emphasize patient engagement, reducing provider and vendor burdens, and new clinical quality reporting measures.  One major change from Stage 1 to Stage 2 is that healthcare organizations will now have to actually exchange “data across organizational and vendor boundaries,” meaning that a test exchange will not be sufficient and that they will have to include submissions to public health organizations.  Overall, Stage 2 proposes 17 core objectives and 3 of 5 menu objectives for eligible professionals and 16 core objectives and 2 of 4 menu objectives for eligible hospitals and CAHs.  Learn more about Stage 2 objectives on the CMS website or the site.

One reassurance for Stage 2 is that no changes to eligibility in general have been made as it is still determined by the HITECH Act and no changes have been made to the Act.  The only potential changes that can be made are those specifically related to the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program.  There are also no changes at this point as far as the definition of a hospital based eligible professional.  Review eligibility requirements in our previous blog.

The ONC is still in the process of seeking comments on the proposed components of Stage 2 and rules will be finalized very soon.  As would be expected, there are still many questions and concerns surrounding the new guidelines, but the government is working to ease the transition to the new phase.  Stage 3 of meaningful use is not slated to be implemented until 2016, which will be the culminating point to evaluate exactly how much EHR initiatives have improved the quality of healthcare in the U.S.

Meaningful Use Centered Services and Jobs for Meaningful Use Experts
Excite Health Partners is pleased to offer EMR services to clients nationwide that focus on maintaining compliance with meaningful use standards and achieving optimal EHR incentive payments.  Contact us today at 877-803-5804 or visit us online for more information.  Are you an H.I.T. professional with extensive knowledge of meaningful use and looking for a new position?  Contact us today at 877-803-5804 or visit us online for more information about available opportunities.