First hospitals achieve MU stage 2, but plenty of work remains

First hospitals achieve MU stage 2, but plenty of work remains

Amid the media storm surrounding the delay of ICD-10 and the recent proposal for a new deadline published by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, meaningful use stage 2 has received very little attention from health care media. However, physicians and hospitals have continued to implement electronic medical record systems into their workflows. As stage 2 of meaningful use has kicked off, a handful of hospitals have emerged as industry leaders for EMR adoption.

Penn Highlands DuBois, based in DuBois, Pennsylvania, has successfully attested to meaningful use stage 2, InformationWeek reported. This makes the hospital the first health care organization in the U.S. to achieve stage 2. While other physicians and hospital systems should look to PHD's EMR implementation strategies, the low number of hospitals that are ready to attest to stage 2 means that professionals should focus first and foremost on their own preparations.

'We wanted to go all-in'
Tom Johnson, chief information officer at Penn Highlands Healthcare, would have attested to meaningful use stage 2 on April 1, 2014, but the CMS' online forms were not working. A week later, Johnson's company became the first health care organization to achieve stage 2.

"I do not know how anyone could have beat [sic] us," Johnson told InformationWeek. "We really wanted to position ourselves as a leader in [meaningful use] compliance. We were not the first to attest for stage 1, but we certainly were in the first group."

Johnson explained that PHD set its initial benchmarks high above the CMS' recommendations for meaningful use attestation. For example, the CMS requires at least 30 percent compliance for computerized physician order entry, but PHD reached 90 percent in that metric.

"We wanted to go all-in and get everybody on board, even for the optional measures," Johnson said. 

Though PHD receives no extra reward for its exceptional performance, Johnson explained that by shooting high during stage 2, his organization has had much less work to do and is that much more prepared for meaningful use stage 3 when the time comes.

More work to be done
Johnson and PHD no longer need to worry about meaningful use stage 2, but Modern Healthcare reported that even though the attestation period for stage 2 is several months old, the hospital is only one of four that have achieved the requirements of the program. 

A group of 50 hospitals and physicians have submitted attestation claims, Elizabeth Myers, policy and outreach lead at the CMS' Office of eHealth Standards and Services, announced in a May 6 speech at the agency's Health Information Technology Policy Committee. Of the 50, only four have succeeded in all relevant metrics, which prompted questions about the overall effectiveness of the program.

"We do not have enough data," Myers told the committee, Modern Healthcare reported.

While it may be easy to blame individual organizations for their perceived lack of preparations, HealthcareITNews reported that EMR vendors may not have their 2014 versions of software ready for months, which could keep certain hospitals and physicians from attesting to stage 2 until they receive the necessary updates to their systems.

The CMS is offering a hardship exemption to certain organizations that would successfully attest to meaningful use stage 2 if their EMR vendors provided updates on time, but comprehensive documentation is key to obtaining such an exemption. Not only do organizations need to prove that their internal processes are up-to-date, but a statement from their EMR vendors is required as well.

As meaningful use stage 2 and the current attestation window continues, both the CMS and hospitals around the country hope that the number of successfully attesting health care organizations rises.


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