Meaningful use attestation update: The facts and figures

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has recently released a new update on the percentage of eligible hospitals that have had success at stage 2 meaningful use attestation. The numbers showed that a total of 77 percent of hospitals have attested.

Figures begin to show promise
According to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology's Dawn Heisey-Grove, eligible hospitals are those that have completed two years of stage 1 attestation. Hospitals that were stage 2 eligible have reached 56 percent. Of these, 77 percent attested for stage 2 through November. In the latest monthly meeting of the Health IT Policy Committee, Elisabeth Holland of the CMS Office of E-Health Standards and Services reported that as of Jan. 1, 1,814 of 2,115 eligible hospitals had attested to stage 2 meaningful use during the 2014 period.

Eligible professionals, on the other hand, lagged behind with only 42 percent of eligible professionals successfully attesting to stage 2 in 2014. However, almost 6 in 10 of the 42 percent were able to meet the meaningful use requirements throughout the year.

"It is very encouraging to see that enough providers were able to implement the software to get this high a percentage actually able to demonstrate stage 2, based on the software that's available to them," said Elizabeth Myers of the CMS OESS at the monthly meeting, as quoted by FierceEMR. "Our big concern over the past year has been the availability of software that's necessary for all providers to participate in the program. This means that the software availability issue is resolving slowly but surely."

According to FierceEMR, the encouraging numbers of professional attestors is likely due to the extended 2014 meaningful use reporting deadline that was implemented in late November. The CMS postponed the deadline until Dec. 31, which gave providers an extra month to attest. 

During this period from November to December, the number of eligible hospitals successfully attesting for the 2014 meaningful use reporting year jumped from 3,696 to 4,093. Those that successfully attested to stage 2 meaningful use during this time rose from 1,681 to 1,814. 

CMS releases incorrect data
The most recent update showing that 77 percent of hospitals have attested follows the announcement from a group of associations within the industry confirming their support for a bill to change the 2015 meaningful use reporting requirements. The bill is one that has been introduced in the past, called the Flexibility in Health IT Reporting Act of 2015. It would require a 90-day, quarter-based reporting period rather than a full year of reporting in 2015. The organizations currently backing the bill include both physician and health care associations, such as the Management Systems Society, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Hospital Association, College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, American Medical Association, Medical Group Management Association, and Healthcare Information.

The report received a wave of support after CMS data implied one-third of eligible hospitals that were expected to demonstrate stage 2 meaningful use in 2014 would have to file for a hardship exemption or meet stage 1 requirements again. However, according to EHR Intelligence, these statistics and those recently released do not add up.

CMS data on eligible professionals over the same timeframe also appeared to be incorrect. A total of 76,730 professionals have adhered to meaningful use last year successfully as of Jan. 1. This was a major increase from 60,561 providers as of Dec. 1. The Health IT Policy Committee meeting showed CMS data for stage 2 that incorrectly points to a decrease in successful 2014 stage 2 meaningful use attestations – the figure dropped from 16,455 to 16,359. The CMS is currently working to correct these numbers.

New bill may provide relief
The Flexibility in Health IT Reporting Act was introduced by Rep.Renee Ellmers and Rep. Ron Kind to ease the burden physicians face while attempting to meet the requirements under stage 2 meaningful use, according to Recently reintroduced to Congress, the bill would enable physicians to pick any three-month quarter as their attestation period in order to qualify for incentive payments under stage 2. The goal is to reduce the full-year reporting period that is required under the current law. Many health care professionals are rooting for the legislation, as this year marks the first year that providers and hospitals face a 1 percent reduction in their Medicare payments for not adhering to the meaningful use regulations. 

At the Health IT Policy Committee meeting, CMS officials reported that of the 16,455 eligible health care professionals who had successfully attested to stage 2, 337,861 had registered for the Medicare meaningful use incentive program.

Rep. Ellmers explained that over the years, doctors and hospitals have been dealing with time constraints that have proven inflexible and impractical. Although the stage 2 attestation numbers have increased, the figures are still nowhere close to where they should be.