Dr. Halamka speaking on May 13
John Halamka, M.D., the CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston, has never shied away from speaking out on issues he has an interest in, nor from controversy. And in his keynote address at the Boston Health IT Summit, sponsored by the Institute for Health Technology Transformation, or iHT2 (which since December 2013 has been in partnership with Healthcare Informatics through its parent company, the Vendome Group LLC), Dr. Halamka was blunt and straightforward in his comments on Tuesday morning, May 13.
Dr. Halamka spent the overwhelming portion of his time in his speech to the audience assembled at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Boston going through the 19 recommendations of the Health IT Policy Committee to federal officials regarding Stage 3 of the meaningful use program under the HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) Act. Clearly, what the Health IT Policy Committee recommends is going to be tremendously influential, as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) prepare to create and then release a proposed rule for MU Stage 3.
But what really got the audience’s attention was this: Dr. Halamka, pivoting off the revelation last week that only four patient care organizations had so far attested successfully to Stage 2 of MU, predicted that only 20 percent of hospital-based patient care organizations would successfully do so. Put another way, he predicted that 80 percent of hospitals would fail to successfully attest to Stage of MU within the allotted time, and that there would be mass applications for hardship exemptions.
“Stage 2 has basically co-opted the entire agenda of CIOs” and other healthcare IT leaders, Halamka told his audience. “My prediction: 20 percent will attest to Stage 2 on time; 80 percent won’t, and there will be huge numbers leaving the program.”
Halamka also predicted that ONC and CMS would ultimately discontinue certifying complete electronic health records (EHRs).
“What I’m trying to get ONC and CMS to do is to get away from being overly specific in terms of the technology that they want providers to use,” he added.
But, back to the Stage 2 issue. Dr. Halamka is now publicly sounding an alarm, along with others, among them Russ Branzell, CEO of the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), who told me shortly after the revelation about the four hospitals last week, that that news only further bolstered CHIME’s arguments that ONC and CMS must slow down the overall meaningful use process.
The fundamental question, really, is a practical policy one: what will happen if large numbers of patient care organizations—as well as eligible professionals—fail to successfully attest to Stage 2 of meaningful use within the allotted time? Will the entire meaningful use program under HITECH end up being at risk? It seems we are headed towards a very challenging inflection point in all this, soon.