Uncertainty then, uncertainty now, uncertainty next year.
That was the message from Jason Fortin, senior advisor at Impact Advisors, on the latest Healthcare Informatics podcast. Fortin and Senior Editor, Gabriel Perna talked about the happenings surrounding the meaningful use incentive program in 2014. Similar to last year, uncertainty around the program’s future, its requirements, and language reigned supreme.
“It’s funny how little things change,” Fortin says. “I’d still describe the state of meaningful use as uncertain. It was uncertain going into this year and then we had hardship exception, the last minute announcement of a special 2014 reporting period where they could use old software potentially attached to Stage 1 instead of Stage 2, and then a couple of weeks ago [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] announced they were pushing back the date to submit in 2014.”
Despite these changes, Fortin notes that CMS continues to avoid offering flexibility ahead of time. This has led to the aforementioned uncertainty from providers.
Nothing defines the uncertainty more than Stage 3 of meaningful use. Will it happen? If it does, what form will it be in? Will the proposed rule come to light in 2015? Fortin says the meaningful use program that was initially imagined is very much in doubt. “It wouldn’t surprise me if a year or two from now, meaningful use looks a lot different than it does today,” Fortin says. “Stage 3 will happen. It needs to be more incremental.”
Fortin supports the idea of Stage 3 focused solely on interoperability, as recommended by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT’s (ONC) JASON Task Force. The interoperability in Stage 3 shouldn’t be overly prescriptive, he says.
Tough luck to those looking for certainty in 2015, Fortin says. Questions remain over the Congress’ possible actions with the Flex-IT Act, which would shorten reporting period requirements for providers. Meanwhile, providers that forge ahead with meaningful use as is will do so with fewer resources. Fortin also sees more meaningful use audits.
“Given how fast providers have had to implement these capabilities and attest them, I think there is a chance we will see higher rates of failure,” he says.