CMS: Only 4 Hospitals Have Reached MU2

Just four hospitals[1] have attested to meaningful use stage 2, according to a presentation delivered Tuesday morning before ONC's Health IT Policy Committee.

The report comes at the end of the second 90-day reporting period for attestation for the 2014 fiscal year, during which hospitals with two or more years of stage 1 under their belt must attest to stage 2 — or both lose out on incentives and incur penalties.

The numbers, then, reinforce what many in the industry know too well: Providers are struggling with meaningful use stage 2.

"We're not surprised at all," says Russ Branzell, CEO of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives. "The fact is there's just too much complexity to it and too many other projects going on. Organizations just can't do it in this timeframe."

CHIME, which has long advocated for more flexibility in the meaningful use program, knew many organizations would have difficultly with the requirements, but the attestation numbers are even lower than estimated in a member survey conducted in November of last year. Of the hospitals surveyed, 50 percent said they planned to have attested to stage 2 by the end of the second reporting period. "That would mean about 750 hospitals should have attested by now, so we're basically 746 short," says Mr. Branzell.

The fact only four hospitals have attested means the realities of trying to attest to meaningful use have proved overwhelming to even the hospitals that had budgeted and planned for the transition, says Mr. Branzell. He points to the transitions of care requirement as particularly difficult, as many of hospitals' trading partners, such as nursing homes, don't have data exchange capabilities.

Representatives from CHIME returned to Washington, D.C., Wednesday, having just been there last week, to continue to testify on the necessity of providing both clarity and flexibility to the meaningful use requirements. "It's the right thing to do, there's just too much to do and too much confusion in the marketplace," says Mr. Branzell.

In February, in response to concern from industry groups like CHIME, providers and other stakeholders about the crunched meaningful use timeline, CMS announced the deadlines would remain the same, but there would be increased flexibility in hardship exceptions. It would allow providers with "2014 EHR vendor issues," be it delayed software or a vendor that was unable to obtain 2014 Edition certification, to apply for an exemption from penalties.

So far, 72 eligible hospitals have applied for a hardship exception, according to CMS. Of those, 66 have been granted exceptions, and six applications have been dismissed (CMS says these applications were from critical access hospitals that do not need to apply for the exception this year).

Mr. Branzell, acknowledging CMS and the ONC are listening carefully to feedback about the program and are committed to working with stakeholders, maintains their current efforts to make meaningful use stage 2 attainable, like the hardship exceptions, just aren't enough.

"The hardship exceptions were a great first step," he says. "But looking at these numbers, they're not going to be enough."

More Articles on Meaningful Use Stage 2:

ONC: Data Exchange Between Hospitals on the Rise
The Life of a Healthcare CIO: Fletcher Allen's Chuck Podesta
tudy: Specialists May Struggle in Meeting MU2 Patient Engagement Requirements

[1] While CMS has not yet released the names of the hospitals that have achieved meaningful use stage 2, Carson Tahoe Health in Carson City, Nev., and Penn Highlands' DuBois (Pa.) Regional Medical Center have been identified by their EHR vendors as having successfully attested.  

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