Today, the Department of Health and Human Services has moved the start date for Stage 2 of the electronic health records meaningful use program from 2013 to 2014. The department released the following statement regarding their decision:
“Input from the vendor community and the provider community makes clear that the current schedule for compliance with stage 2 meaningful use objectives in 2013 poses a nearly insurmountable timing challenge for those who attest to meaningful use in 2011. With the anticipated release of the final rule for stage 2 in June, 2012, the current timetable would require EHR vendors to design, develop, and release new functionality, and for eligible hospitals to upgrade, implement and begin using the new functionality by the beginning of the reporting year in October of 2012.
“In response to significant input on this matter from multiple stakeholders, expert testimony, and countless hours of review, analysis and deliberation, HHS publicly announced its intention to delay the start of Stage 2 of the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs for a period of one year for those first attesting to meaningful use in 2011. We intend to propose such a delay in the Stage 2 meaningful use Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), which is scheduled to be published in February 2012. Not only do we believe that this will give vendors added time to develop certified EHR technologies for Stage 2, we also believe this delay will give providers additional time to implement new software and meet the new challenges of Stage 2. We also intend to propose maintaining the current expectation for those first attesting to meaningful use in 2012, so that all providers attesting to meaningful use in 2011 or 2012 will begin Stage 2 in 2014.
“Perhaps most importantly, we want to provide an added incentive for providers attesting to meaningful use in 2011. We encourage any providers who have been waiting until 2012 to attest to Stage 1 meaningful use now. Under the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, providers who attest early receive greater incentives. And now those providers who first attest in 2011 can get three payment years for meeting the Stage 1 expectations, while those first attesting in 2012 can only get two payment years under Stage 1 criteria.”
The good news is that providers who attest to stage 1 of meaningful use this year will not have to worry about meeting Stage 2 criteria until 2014. Healthcare providers should make note that the postponement will come too late to attest this year. Eligible hospitals and physicians that begin participating this year still would have to meet new standards for the program in 2013.