Recently, six senators wrote a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius criticizing the Meaningful Use program. The letter, which came with a white paper listing their concerns about federal health IT policy, questioned whether the $35 billion allocated to Meaningful Use was being spent effectively, especially given the fact that provider interoperability is still minimal.
This week, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) sent a letter to the six senators responding to their concerns, one which largely defends Meaningful Use though advocating for a one year extension of Stage 2.
In the letter, CHIME leaders concede that that there is some reason to be concerned with the current state of interoperability. However, they note, “we strongly believe that EHR incentive payments under the policy of Meaningful Use have been essential in moving the nation’s healthcare system into the 21st Century.” The incentive payments providers are receiving are critical to the business plans and interoperability solutions they’re developing, CHIME says.
And while we may not have interoperable EMRs in place just yet, the MU program has helped make progress in that direction, they say. “The work accomplished through Meaningful Use to reach consensus on transport, vocabulary and content standards is foundational to advancing interoperability and exchange,” the letter argues.
All that being said, it would be a good idea to extend Stage 2 of Meaningful Use for another year before moving ahead with Stage 3, CHIME contends:
A year extension of Stage 2 will give providers the opportunity to optimize their EHR technology and achieve the benefits of Stage 1 and Stage 2; it will give vendors the time needed to prepare, develop and deliver needed technology to correspond with Stage 3; and it will give policymakers time to assess and evaluate programmatic trends needed to craft thoughtful Stage 3 rules.
Personally, I hope that HHS agrees to CHIME’s request and moves Stage 2 up a year. After all, the existing timelines aren’t holy writ, and if changing the deadline allows providers and vendors to consolidate their gains significantly, it’s probably worth the wait.
John’s working on an interview with CHIME to discuss their letter. Watch for that over on Hospital EMR and EHR.