2014 meaningful use data proves disappointing

According to EHR Intelligence, there are four provider associations that are reissuing their calls to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to rethink the requirements for meaningful use during 2015. This was following a release of meaningful use data that proved to be more disappointing than expected. The current statistics for EHR Incentive Programs were provided by Elisabeth Myers of the CMS during a program update to the Health IT Policy Committee. 

The data showed that as of Nov. 1, 1,903 eligible hospitals and 43,989 eligible professionals had attested for stage 1 meaningful use so far this year. However, these numbers have drastically declined, as a mere 840 hospitals and 11,478 providers successfully attested for stage 2 meaningful use. 

A need for change and guidance
The four associations renewing their calls include the Medical Group Management Association, the American Medical Association, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. These organizations are trying to encourage shorter meaningful use reporting periods in 2015.

"Meaningful use participation data released today have validated the concerns of providers and IT leaders. These numbers continue to underscore the need for a sensible glide-path in 2015," said CHIME President and CEO Russell P. Branzell, according to EHR Intelligence. "Providers have struggled mightily in 2014, in many instances for reasons beyond their control. If nothing is done to help them get back on track in 2015, we will continue to see growing dissatisfaction with EHRs and disenchantment with meaningful use."

The Flexibility in Health IT Reporting Act of 2014 – introduced in September – works to decrease the EHR reporting period in 2015 from one year to a three-month quarterly period. The bill, supported by associations like the CHIME, is meant to establish extra support for eligible providers, encouraging the continued participation in meaningful use. 

The recent participation data shows further evidence that reporting requirements are too cumbersome for hospitals and providers. The number of organizations participating in the program is likely to drop, even with the recent efforts of the CMS to provide greater flexibility. 

MGMA senior vice president Anders M. Gilberg warned that the low numbers of attestations proves that the stage 2 meaningful use requirements could eventually have significantly negative effects on the incentive program, according to the American Medical Association. A shorter reporting period in 2015 is among the most crucial changes that need to be made in order for the program to stay viable.

Not much can be done to enhance the meaningful use experience for the eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals whose 2014 reporting period has past. The difficult stage 2 requirements are something that only the experienced Health IT Policy Committee can resolve. 

The effects of meaningful use on interoperability
In addition to being extremely challenging to meet, meaningful use requirements have failed to define EHR interoperability for the end-user, according to Nancy Fabozzi, the Frost & Sullivan principal analyst of connected health.

"The industry has been focused on problems with interoperability and data entry, which are both significant problems for clinicians," said Fabozzi, according to EHR Intelligence. "If we are going to get the right information to the right provider at the right time, you've got to be able to find the data and quickly because clinician end-users are just not going to sit there for a long period of time hunting and checking for information. At some point in time, they are going to give up."

Fabozzi recently released a report that showed that inaccurate data and limited searchability were the biggest problems for health care CIOs using inefficient EHRs. She based her ideas regarding poor operability on the report's findings. Since the main goal of EHRs is to improve the aspects that make paper records difficult, such as face-to-face time with patients, the reports of poor usability for ineffective EHRs are particularly discouraging. Effective EHRs have the potential to serve as user-friendly interfaces that promote a better understanding of medical conditions for patients.

The financial benefits of the EHR Incentive Programs have caused many providers and hospitals to implement an EHR system without taking into careful consideration how effective their specific system is and how it will ultimately impact their workflow. Several health IT experts have warned people that inadequate EHR interoperability has the potential to result in a situation where health care CIOs are forced to choose from one of two options to improve the usability experience for the end-user. This means that CIOs will have to use the EHR system through an open API and experiment with the different functions or they will have to purchase a solution that will fix these problems. 

If interoperability is not addressed, EHR's ultimate goals of enhancing patient care will not be met. With stage 3 meaningful use requirements still in the works, it is important that EHR Incentive Programs use the opportunity to help increase the efficiency of EHR usability. However, there will be no changes or enhancements without health care organizations and EHR end-users requesting more from the CMS.