Health IT Pulse

Jul 21 2014   4:04PM GMT

American Medical Association blasts meaningful use guidelines

Shaun Sutner Shaun Sutner Profile: Shaun Sutner

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AMA
EHR attestation process
Meaningful use

The American Medical Association is blasting the federal government’s proposed changes to the EHR meaningful use incentive program for 2014.

“The proposed rule does not address our overarching concern with the MU program, which is the “all-or-nothing” mandate on physicians, James Madara, M.D., executive vice president and CEO of the American Medical Association (AMA), wrote in comments on the proposed rulemaking addressed to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. “The proposed rule is generally aimed at early adopters of electronic health records and larger providers, leaving other participants with little relief.”

In particular, the AMA is urging CMS to remove what the medical group calls the “existing pass-fail approach” and replace it with a 75% pass rate and to allow physicians who meet at least 50% of the meaningful use requirements to avoid a financial penalty.

The AMA’s position, according to Madara’s letter, is that unless the meaningful use program itself is modified, most doctors won’t move to stage 2 of the program and will never reach stage 3. He reiterated previous AMA complaints that many doctors are facing major problems using certified EHR software systems to meet information exchange and patient engagement objectives.

“Too much emphasis has been placed on future stages of MU, when 50 percent of physicians have yet to even make it to stage 1,” Madara added. “We are concerned that CMS and ONC (the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology) have not spent enough time learning from those who have participated in stage 1 before the agencies design, propose and execute subsequent stages. We therefore believe that CMS and ONC should conduct a rigorous study of the meaningful use timetable before proposing any future stages.”

The AMA says the hardship provisions and extensions proposed to allow doctors who were scheduled to move to stage 2 to stay another year in stage 1 are inadequate, with CMS’ own data indicating that only 1% of physicians have attested to stage 2 so far in 2014. “Accordingly, the one-year exception provides little relief,” Madara wrote.

The AMA also criticized the time of the proposed rule. The comment period closes July 21 and the final rule is not expected before Sept. 1, so doctors will not know meaningful use requirements until the year is almost over, Madara argued.

Therefore, the group is again asking CMS to extend the hardship deadline until 30 days after the final rule is published.

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