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Why a Stage 2 Extension May Not Happen for a While

October 1, 2013
by Gabriel Perna
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At the first-ever Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems (AMDIS) Fall Symposium in Boston, industry luminary, John Glaser, Ph.D., the CEO of Health Services for Siemens Healthcare, shared some details on discussions involving the potential extension of the Stage 2 timeline for meaningful use of electronic health records (EHRs).   

Glaser, the former CIO of Partners Healthcare and senior advisor to the Office of the National Coordinator fo Health IT (ONC), was one of the many industry leaders who testified in front of the Senate Finance Committee to discuss the Stage 2 meaningful use timeline and the meaningful use program in general. Like many of his cohorts in the industry, he says that Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) should extend the timeline by one year to Oct. 1, 2015. 
It's not an affront, Glaser said, to the people who wrote the law. Instead, they need to reassess the law, see what's working, what's not working, and how it should be tuned. Yet despite the opinions of Glaser, 17 Republican Senators, various industry associations, and many others, this request may take a few months to be processed, if at all.
Glaser told the AMDIS attendees that representatives of CMS said in private conversations that they would consider extending by a year, but they were "heads down" on the (insurance) exchanges and any change wouldn't come until spring of next year. By that point, Glaser remarked, you basically have already made a decision whether or not to attest. 
The discussions on meaningful use that occurred at the committee, Glaser said, were focused on the EHR digital divide between rural and urban providers; and the lack of interoperability of the systems. Interoperability, he said, will be highly uneven and chaotic and won't have an easy answer. However, that's not what Congress wants to hear about the $36 billion taxpayer-funded investment they made with the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. 
During his closing presentation, Glaser also urged attendees to make themselves heard with policymakers when it comes to whether or not regulation is curbing health IT innovation. He said once regulations are put in place, they become hard to change. "Give your busy lives, take time to contribute to this discussion," he said. "Make sure your voices are heard, these are real conversations with real consequences. Tell them where to back off, and where to step it up."