Nearly 88% of eligible hospitals have received a payment for participating in the EHR incentive program, as noted in data shared at a recent Health IT Policy Committee meeting. The payments were either given to providers who could attest to having fully installed and were using EHRs according to meaningful use criteria, or those who had yet to achieve meaningful use but were in the adopt/implement/upgrade phase with their EHR system. Through 2013, more than $19 billion in meaningful use incentive payments had been distributed to eligible professionals and hospitals.
In a meeting held last April, the Health IT Policy Committee laid down some ideas for the continued development of the meaningful use incentive program. Goals for stage 3 of the program — including whether to shift compliance requirements more toward effective use of data and away from technology adoption — was among the topics covered by the committee. For providers who have attested to previous stages of meaningful use, stage 3 compliance could depend more on patient outcomes and disease prevention.
CMS continues to adjust their deadlines to allow for greater participation in the meaningful use program. The agency recently extended both the stage 2 deadline and the reporting period for providers to receive incentive payments for 2013. The decision to prolong stage 2 was due to stakeholder concern that insufficient data would be available to fully assess its effectiveness before moving on to the third stage.
Extending stage 2 will not only give more providers a chance to receive incentive payments while transitioning to the ICD-10 codes, but it will also help define the next stage in the meaningful use process. Specifically, it will allow the policymakers more time to determine reasonable benchmarks to set for stage 3. It also grants vendors additional time to create and adjust their products to better suit providers’ needs.