Hospitals that do not attest to stage 2 may see reduced Medicare payments

As the ICD-10 implementation date gets its final rule, many health providers still struggle to integrate electronic health record systems. A University of Michigan study published online in the journal Health Affairs found that the hospitals that do not meet the federally mandated EHR deadline could face millions of dollars in reduced Medicare payments between now and early 2015.

Data released by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services showed that 94.95 percent of eligible hospitals have registered for the meaningful use incentive programs. Of those, 92 percent have received at least one payment for either stage 1 or stage 2 of meaningful use. To attest for stage 2, hospitals must complete all 16 core objectives and  three menu objectives that can be chosen from a list of six.

The University of Michigan study found that more than half of U.S. hospitals needed to meet stage 2 meaningful use objectives by the end of the fiscal year, which is the end of July 2014. The study's data suggested that only 5.8 percent of those hospitals completed all 16 requirements. Those that failed to meet the objectives will be subject to financial penalties during the 2015 fiscal year.

"There was likely a big scramble before the deadline, but my sense is that it would have been hard for a lot of those hospitals to meet that deadline," Julia Adler-Milstein, co-author of the study and an assistant professor at the U-M School of Information and the U-M School of Public Health, stated in a press release.

Hospitals use EHRs, but most face challenges with meaningful use
The study also found that the number of hospitals using EHRs is rising steeply. It reported that nearly 60 percent of hospitals have at least a basic system, and 90 percent were on track to achieve a majority of the criteria required for stage 2 of meaningful use.

This comes a few months after a proposal was released in May by the CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. The organizations called for giving all providers an additional year to upgrade EHR systems in order to attest to stage 2. The study's authors suggested that EHR vendors need to give more attention to the systems, as many do not have the functions required for completing all the criteria. Furthermore, they believe that policy makers should consider new strategies to ensure that all hospitals adopt EHR systems.