meaningful-use-delay-ehr-marketplaceMost every healthcare initiative gets delayed:

  • HIPAA administrative transactions (claims, eligibility, etc.) took years to implement.
  • Remember NPI? It was delayed.
  • 5010 transactions? Of course.
  • ICD-10 has been delayed for years and it’s still not implemented; at this point October 2015 is the new target.

Surprise! Meaningful Use 2014 along with Stage 2 measures are now part of the endless cycle of strict mandates, followed by promises of CMS payment adjustments (the nice word for penalties) and then a last minute relaxation or delay of the mandate.

Stage 2 Meaningful Use was an over-reach by CMS and now they must backtrack; this has to be embarrassing for the bureaucrats that ignored the advice of providers, EHR vendors and medical organizations during and after the rulemaking process. We predicted that their approach to the next phase of Meaningful Use was flawed, as did many influential organizations such as the AMA. CMS was headstrong about the timing and complexity of Stage 2, and now we must all pause and wait for a re-start.

These endless cycles of over-reaching mandates, threats of penalties and then relaxation or delay causes senseless market confusion and a slew of exasperated providers. The question is, what can providers do to relieve the stress related to this vicious cycle? Believe it or not, providers have some control with regard to managing these predictable cycles but ignoring them is not an option.

If you are a medical provider, we suggest that you should be a careful observer of the recent events related to Meaningful Use 2014 Certification, Stage 2 participation and also ICD-10. These recent events may have muddied the water with regard to your practice’s workflow, but they actually shed light on the medical software industry. It is now acknowledged that upgrading medical software technology to meet the strict standards related to Meaningful Use and ICD-10 compliance is a hurdle that not every vendor can meet. Factor in the short timelines originally proposed by CMS and just a sliver of the vendors had the wherewithal to meet the original deadlines.

The facts speak for themselves:
Complete Ambulatory EHRs Certified for 2011 Meaningful Use: 1,932
Complete Ambulatory EHRs Certified for 2014 Meaningful Use: 102 as of January 2014

Choosing medical software technology can be perplexing for providers. It is understandable, as they have no formal training in the procurement of software. But this recent market disruption affords providers a unique window into the EHR marketplace. Since vendors had no way of knowing that there would be a delay in the progress of Meaningful Use, every vendor had to plan to be ready by January 2014 to support their customers, and likewise for ICD-10 upgrades.

Many EHR vendors could not meet the deadline!

Not meeting the deadline means that there is something systemically wrong with that vendor. Remember, the playing field was level; every vendor received all of the tools to comply with the latest CMS programs at the same time. For Meaningful Use 2014, the tools for compliance were available at least 18 months prior to the deadline and still hundreds of EHRs could not comply.

We believe that providers need to distance themselves from EHR companies that had trouble meeting the deadline, as those companies:

  1. Lack the technical expertise to keep pace in the fast-moving health IT marketplace

                                                            AND / OR

  1. Don’t have the financial resources to continue to invest in their EHR technology

Providers want an EHR vendor that will be with them for the long haul. If your vendor is committed to adopting the latest compliance standards, then your practice does not have to pray for CMS delays – your vendor is always ready and therefore so are you.

In fact, very early adoption of Meaningful Use standards affords your practice time to learn new workflows in preparation for the next phase of attestation. As an example, MediTouch EHR was certified for 2014 over 6 months prior to the original compliance date. We were one of the first few EHRs certified for 2011 and also for 2014.

It’s great for providers that the stress of meeting the latest Meaningful Use standard has been put off for at least a few months. Starting January 2015, Stage 2 is targeted to begin (again). Without another false start, providers will require great software that incorporates the latest version of ICD and Meaningful Use into daily workflows.

When choosing EHR software, first look at how long it took the vendor to meet the latest Meaningful Use standard and whether ICD-10 tools are already built-in. The vendors that were early adopters of the new standards will be the ones that you can count on to keep up with the ever-changing health IT landscape.