Fast Could Lead To Furious Over EHR Meaningful Use

Editorial | American Medical News | February 18, 2013

CMS’ schedule for physicians to show electronic health record proficiency is too ambitious given system limitations and issues that haven’t been addressed from stage 1.

The first stage of the federal meaningful use program, covering physician adoption of electronic health records, has not been completed. Yet already the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services not only is rolling out proposals for the second stage but also is talking about what is going to be in the third and final stage of the program.

While meaningful use certainly has encouraged physicians to adopt EHRs, to some extent stage 2 and most definitely stage 3 demand physicians to reach standards that are nearly impossible to meet in full. And yet, at stage 3, doctors will have to be at 100% compliance in some measures to meet the standards. The program requires doctors to buy potentially expensive technology that they then must configure and adapt to meaningful use requirements. This is even though those systems might not be right for their practice and aren’t capable of doing the things that CMS requires of doctors. On top of that, all of this must be done in the next three years.

That is an ambitious schedule not required by law but by regulators at CMS. The agency would do well to take a breather. Outside help should be enlisted to review how the meaningful use program has gone so far. Then, substantive change can be made to requirements so meaningful use of EHRs really does mean better and more efficient care, and not just lots of meaningless data entry and technological frustration...