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Washington Debrief: New ONC Fellows Named

August 20, 2013
by Jeff Smith, Director of Public Policy at CHIME
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Jeff Smith, Director of Public Policy at CHIME

The second full week of August roared ahead much like the first, with two major players in the health IT space calling for a Stage 2 Meaningful Use Extension.  Such recommendations are no stranger to this readership, but for HIMSS and the AAFP, these policy announcements add to the growing chorus CHIME began in late May.  The dog days of summer these are not.  Welcome to this week’s edition of the Washington Debrief, covering what CIOs need to know from the week that was August 12-16, 2013.

HIMSS, AAFP Join CHIME and Other HIT Stakeholders in Calling for MU Extension

Two important constituent groups sent letters to HHS last week, urging HHS to reconsider timelines for Meaningful Use attestation in 2014.  The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) sent a letter to Secretary Sebelius, CMS Administrator Tavenner and National Coordinator Mostashari urging them to launch Stage 2 of Meaningful Use as scheduled, but to extend the attestation period to 18 months.  As evidence in support for their call to extend stage 2 reporting periods by six months, HIMSS tapped their analytics database which contains information on more than 5,400 hospitals’ IT infrastructure.  According to HIMSS’ analysis, 68 percent of eligible hospitals and 41 percent of tethered ambulatory facilities have purchased the required product to attest to meaningful use Stage 2.  However, there is concern that many of those providers do not possess the required version of those products, which have to be certified to new criteria.

Similarly, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) circulated a similar proposal, asking for a 12-month extension in 2104.  AAFP represents more than 110,600 family physicians nationwide.

 "We are increasingly concerned that the regulatory expectations of [meaningful use] Stage 2 and its current timeframe will outstrip the capacity of many certified electronic health record technology vendors and ambulatory family medicine practices,” said Dr. Glen Stream, AAFP board chair, in a letter to CMS Administrator Tavenner.  “In the interest of advancing the policy priorities of MU and maintaining the momentum of health care transformation brought about by the CMS EHR Incentive Programs, we urge CMS not to delay the implementation of MU Stage 2 but to extend the timeframe for compliance with MU Stage 2 requirements by 12 months,” the letter pronounced.

With HIMSS and AAFP adding their constituents’ voices to the call, the campaign to extend Meaningful Use broadens its ranks to include CHIME, AHA, NRHA and the AMA in recent weeks.

ONC Fellows Program Gets Spotlight; CHIME Members Among Inaugural Class

Twenty-eight Meaningful Use-savvy clinicians and healthcare professionals from 18 states will be helping other providers find IT success as part of a new initiative at the the Office of the National Coordinator.  The inaugural class of ONC’s Health IT Fellows will “provide grassroots insight and…act as champions to their provider and practice community colleagues on a local and national scale,” a purpose statement for the program said.  “Fellows will lend their voice and experience regarding ways providers can leverage Health IT to improve patient engagement and experience in the delivery of patient care, making Meaningful Use meaningful,” the statement continued.  The Spring 2013 Fellows include mostly primary care providers and administrators, including 17 physicians, five administrative workers, three office managers, one IT professional, one nurse and one nurse practitioner.  They also represent a range of organization setting types including small practices, large practices, Critical Access Hospitals, rural clinics, and tribal health organizations.  In order to promote relationship development and allow for a mature feedback process, the Fellows have been divided into three tracks which correspond directly with the National Quality Strategy, specifically:

  • Patient Safety (NQS priority 1)
  • Million Hearts (NQS priority 4)
  • Leveraging MU in Community (NQS priority  5)

All Tracks are responsible for defining their goals and objectives as Fellows and are supported by ONC Subject Matter Experts. The Health IT Fellows are of, by, and for the practices and as such, we will continue to provide insight into the program and share examples with you on how the Fellows are leveraging meaningful use in their practices. 

Special congratulations to CHIME Members, Emily Krohn, CIO at Boone County Health Center, a critical access hospital in Albion, Nebraska and Steve Stark, CIO at Cass County Health System in Atlantic, Iowa.

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