Few Healthcare Pros Have Attested To Meaningful Use

Posted on February 25, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Despite all of the attention given to Meaningful Use, it seems that eligible healthcare professionals have been relatively slow to achieve compliance. A new report published in the New England Journal of Medicine concludes that just over 12 percent of EPs had attested to the Medicare portion of Meaningful Use as of May 2012, well into the life of the program.

The reasons for this relatively low uptake are complex, but clearly, the EMRs physicians are buying are part of the problem. As a piece in iHealthBeat notes, the National Center for Health Statistics recently found that only 27 percent of office-based physicians had EMRs capable of supporting 13 of the Stage 1 objectives for the MU program.  Since EPs have to meet 15 core objectives, plus five of 10 menu options, that leaves the remaining 73 percent of office-based physicians out in the cold.

To calculate uptake of Meaningful Use attestation for the NEJM, researchers with Brigham and Women’s Hospital looked at combined CMS data from April 2011 to May 2012, and GAO estimates of the number of eligible professionals in the U.S.

The researchers found that 12.2 percent of 509,328 eligible professionals had attested to the Medicare portion of the MU program as of May 2012, including 17.8 percent eligible PCPs and 9.8 percent of specialists. PCPs accounted for 44 percent of all Medicare Meaningful Use attestations, the researchers concluded.

Looked at state by state, the median Medicare attestation rate was 7.7 percent of eligible professionals, though rates varied from 1.9 percent in Alaska and 24.2 percent in North Dakota.

These statistics must not be very encouraging ones for CMS, particularly the leaders are ONC. And they certainly make one wonder whether the mass of doctors will end up facing penalties in 2015 rather than making sure they attest to Meaningful Use Stage 1. This should be a real eye-opener for policymakers.  As for doctors whose systems simply won’t make the grade, well, this has been called the year of the big EMR switch. I guess we may see even more switching than we expected.