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Industry Expert: the CMS/ONC Move Towards Stage 2 MU Flexibility Acknowledges Real Stage 2 Challenges

May 21, 2014
by Mark Hagland
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CSC’s Robert Wah, M.D. brings a unique perspective to his views on the new announcement on MU flexibility

Robert Wah, M.D., the global chief medical officer at the Falls Church, Va.-based CSC, has a particularly informed view of policy announcements coming out of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS); Dr. Wah was the first Deputy National Coordinator and chief operating officer, working with David Brailer, M.D., the first National Coordinator, in 2005 and 2006, when ONC was first established under the Bush administration. Indeed, Dr. Wah came to ONC after 23 years of active duty in the U.S. Navy, and duty as the associate CIO for the military health system.

In addition to his duties at CSC, Dr. Wah continues to practice part-time as a reproductive endocrinologist, seeing patients, doing surgery, and training residents and fellows at the NIH (National Institutes of Health) and Walter Reed National Medical Center at Bethesda, Maryland.  What’s more, in June 2013, he was elected president-elect of the American Medical Association.

Speaking in this case as the global CMO at CSC, Dr. Wah shared his perspectives on the announcement by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) on May 20 that the agencies were proposing a rule that would allow for greater flexibility in meaningful use reporting in 2014.

Robert Wah, M.D.

On May 21, the day after the CMS/ONC announcement, Dr. Wah spoke with HCI Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland regarding that announcement. Below are excerpts from that interview.

Based on your understanding of the CMS/ONC announcement, would you describe this development as a genuine breakthrough, or a relatively small concession?

I’ll take any concession. I think that this announcement is a sign of flexibility on the part of CMS and ONC. And I think it’s there as some recognition of the challenges people have faced in meeting the challenges of the meaningful use program. And it’s a recognition of some of the problems people have had in getting 2014-certified EHR [electronic health record] products.

At the end of the day, we all want the same thing, which is to have more people off paper and onto digital records, and deliverin better patient care.

Do you think, personally, that the meaningful use requirements under Stage 2  have proven too challenging for many hospitals and physicians?

Certainly, Stage 2 has been challenging. And we’re moving into a phase where it will be all-or-nothing, when come to Stage 3. And this move is a sign of possible future flexibility; because people are working hard.

Is it alarming that only four hospitals so far have fully attested to Stage 2?

Yes, and I think that probably prompted the understanding of the need for flexibility.

What should CIOs and other healthcare IT leaders take from this latest development, and think about this development?

Well, I hope that people are encouraged to move forward on the transition to electronic records and clinical information systems. So this is a good sign that we’re all working towards the same goal.