Several factors, including the tardiness of electronic health record (EHR) vendors in upgrading their systems, a 12-month reporting period in 2015, and, above all, the lack of interoperability among EHRs, have impeded the ability of even veteran EHR users to attest to MU2.
Many physicians feel they’re between a rock and a hard place. If they’re participating in the Medicare side of the Meaningful Use program, have attested before, and don’t attest to MU2 this year, they’ll not only lose financial incentives but will be subject to penalties in 2017.
If their vendor did not supply a 2014 edition upgrade of their EHR in time for them to start their MU reporting on January 1, they can apply for a hardship exception, and 55,000 eligible professionals (EPs) have done that. But if they had their 2014 edition EHR in place last year, they must start reporting now in stage 2 or face penalties.
For many physicians, the penalty phase has already begun. CMS has informed 257,000 EPs that their Medicare payments will be cut by 1% in 2015 for failure to meet the Meaningful Use requirements in previous years. Appeals are being accepted through the end of February.
A few months ago, Medical Economics documented the problems that doctors were encountering in meeting MU2’s requirements. The biggest challenges were exchanging care summaries electronically with other providers and getting patients to view, download or transmit (V/D/T) their electronic health information. These roadblocks are continuing.
“I can’t get my patients to communicate with me online,” says Bernd Wollschlaeger, MD, a solo family physician in North Miami Beach, Fla. “That’s the first challenge. The second is getting my EHR to interface with the state vaccination registry and the public health and other systems. We’re hardly able to communicate with physicians who have different systems. We’re still relying on printed out reports from an EHR that are emailed or faxed to me so I can input them into my system.”
As of December 1, 2014, only 16,455 eligible providers (EPs) and 1,681 eligible hospitals (EHs) had attested to MU2, which launched on January 1, 2014. CMS says it expects a last-minute surge that will raise these numbers significantly by the end of February, when attestations from the fourth-quarter reporting period are due.
But Michelle Holmes, MBA, a Seattle-based principal with ECG Management Consultants, is seeing more and more of her clients “de-prioritize” the Meaningful Use program. “They’re preparing for the inevitability that they may not be successful and even starting, in some cases, to budget for that,” she says.
Holmes expects the dropout rate from Meaningful Use—which was 16% from 2011 to 2012 and 19% from 2012 to 2013—to continue rising. “The dropout rate will increase even more if they stick to the 12-month reporting period,” she says. “That could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back” that may persuade CMS to restore the 90-day reporting period, she adds.
Meanwhile, physicians must begin reporting now to avoid penalties. Here are some tips to help you get over the rough spots.