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Political Heat Scorches Meaningful Use Timetable

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media, July 30, 2013

Until recently, MU has had a bipartisan aura about it. But now the desire for a delayed deadline for Stage 2 is growing among healthcare providers and technology vendors. Could this be the moment that MU becomes another partisan issue in Washington?

July has been full of FUD—fear, uncertainty, and doubt—for electronic health record technology.

Committees in both the House of Representatives and the Senate have heard officials make the case for providers to get more time to comply with Stage 2, beyond the current September 30, 2014 deadline.

The AHA and AMA joined the call for delay. And CHIME renewed its call for a delay of Stage 2.

In a statement, the organization of healthcare CIOs said the additional 12-months for meeting Stage 2 "will give providers the opportunity to optimize their EHR technology and achieve the benefits of Stage 1 and Stage 2; it will give vendors the time needed to prepare, develop and deliver needed technology to correspond with Stage 3; and it will give policymakers time to assess and evaluate programmatic trends needed to craft thoughtful Stage 3 rules."

Farzad Mostashari, MD, National Coordinator for Health IT, defended the existing Meaningful Use timetable, but found few allies outside the Department of Health and Human Services, other than the Bipartisan Policy Center and assorted patients' rights groups, for whom the coordinated care and quality controls that Stage 2 will hard code cannot arrive fast enough.

"A pause would stall progress," Mostashari told the Senate Finance Committee. "We need to give Stage 2 a chance."

But clearly the public has grown weary of hearing Mostashari and other officials proclaim how many incentive dollars have been handed out implementing Stage 1. And his beginning-of-year pledge to make 2013 the year of interoperability isn't panning out so far.

Ever since President Bush pledged to bring an EHR to every American by the year 2014, Meaningful Use has had a bipartisan aura about it. Could this be the moment that it becomes yet another partisan issue in Washington?

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