On June 8, the HIT Policy Committee at ONC has approved the Workgroup recommendations for Meaningful Use Stage 2. Before diving into the details, it is worth noting that the time crunch for moving from Stage 1 to Stage 2, for those seeking incentives in 2011, was proposed to be resolved by postponing Stage 2 for these early adopters for one year. As I noted before, if you are able to attest and obtain incentives in 2011, go ahead and do that. You will be rewarded by having the opportunity to stay at Stage 1 for 3 consecutive years. The final Stage 2 ruling is not expected to occur until June 2012 and judging by previous experience with Stage 1, the recommendations approved today will be significantly relaxed by the CMS process of proposed rulemaking and public comments. So although analyzing (rejoicing or bemoaning) the various measures on this long list is a bit premature, it may be helpful to look at the general principles embedded in this new stage of Meaningful Use.
Many of the Meaningful Use more pedestrian measures have remained unchanged, have increased in intensity, or have been moved from menu to core (more on this later). These measures include such items as recording patient demographics, maintaining medications, allergies and problem lists, recording of vitals, running reports, electronic prescribing, incorporating structured lab results, medications reconciliation, using formularies, enabling clinical decision support, reporting to state and federal agencies and ensuring privacy and security of medical records.
Karen DeSalvo started as the new National Coordinator for Healthcare Information Technology on January 13, 2014. After my brief discussion with her last week, I can already tell she’s a good listener, aware of the issues, and is passionate about using healthcare IT as a tool to improve population health.
She is a cheerleader for IT, not an informatics expert. She’ll rely on others to help with the IT details, and that’s appropriate.
What advice would I give her, given the current state of healthcare IT stakeholders?
1. Rethink the Certification Program – With a new National Coordinator, we have an opportunity to redesign certification. As I’ve written about previously some of the 2014 Certification test procedures have negatively impacted the healthcare IT industry by being overly prescriptive and by requiring functionality/workflows that are unlikely to be used in the real world.
One of the most negative aspects of 2014 certification is the concept of “certification only”. No actual clinical use or attestation is required but software must be engineered to incorporate standards/processes which are not yet mature. An example is the “transmit” portion of the view/download/transmit patient/family engagement requirements.
There is not yet an ecosystem for patients to ‘transmit’ using CCDA and Direct, yet vendors are required to implement complex functionality that few will use. Another example is the use of QRDA I and QRDA III for quality reporting.
Over the next few months, Jacob Reider will serve as the interim National Coordinator for Healthcare IT while the search continues for Farzad Mostashari’s permanent replacement.
What advice would I give to the next national coordinator?
David Blumenthal led ONC during a period of remarkable regulatory change and expanding budgets. He was the right person for the “regulatory era.”
Farzad Mostashari led ONC during a period of implementation when resources peaked, grants were spent, and the industry ran marathons every day to keep up with the pace of change. He was the right person for the “implementation era”
The next coordinator will preside over the “consolidate our gains” era. Grants largely run out in January 2014. Budgets are likely to shrink because of sequestration and the impact of fiscal pressures (when the Federal government starts operating again). Many regulatory deadlines converge in the next coordinator’s term.
The right person for this next phase must listen to stakeholder challenges, adjust timelines, polish existing regulations, ensure the combined burden of regulations from many agencies in HHS do not break the camel’s back, and keep Congress informed every step of the way. I did not include parting the Red Sea, so maybe there is a mere human who could do this.
What tools does the coordinator have in an era of shrinking budgets?
At present, Meaningful Use Stage 2, ICD-10, the Affordable Care Act, HIPAA Omnibus Rule, and numerous CMS imperatives have overlapping timelines, making it nearly impossible for provider organizations to maintain operations while complying with all the new requirements.