Societies react to meaningful use rules with mixed opinions, support materials

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The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Tuesday released the long anticipated final rules for identifying the criteria for hospitals and eligible providers to become meaningful users of health IT. Prominent professional societies have responded with supportive materials for eligible providers and hospitals, as well as reactions to the final rules.

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), starting on July 21, will commence a six-part webinar series for members to provide “the knowledge and tools [needed] to successfully navigate these regulations.” The series will cover aspects of the final rules, including separate programs explaining meaningful use for eligible professionals and meaningful use for hospitals.

An interactive website to help medical practices compare, select and implement EHRs took root on the internet by AmericanEHR Partners, an organization founded by the American College of Physicians and its partner, Cientis Technologies. AmericanEHR Partners' stated mission is to develop an online community to support physicians and other healthcare professionals as they adopt and use health IT.

Currently participating professional societies include American College of Physicians, Society of General Internal Medicine and the American Psychiatric Association. Providing educational content including podcasts, webinars and newsletters, AmericanEHR Partners stated it will help simplify EHR adoption by allowing healthcare professionals to:

  • Evaluate readiness to adopt an EHR and provide a list of recommended resources to help overcome identified challenges;
  • View comprehensive EHR user ratings on different solutions based on surveys of physicians conducted through their professional societies;
  • Sort EHR technologies based on medical subspecialty and desired functionality; and
  • Provide side-by-side comparisons of EHR systems.

Rich Umbdenstock, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association (AHA) issued a statement professing that while CMS made some important improvements, the association remains concerned that requirements may be out of reach for many U.S. hospitals.

“Given this rule’s complexity, we are fully reviewing it and consulting with our members in order to understand its implication for hospitals and patients,” stated Umbdenstock.

The AHA also stated it's pleased that CMS has provided some additional flexibility for hospitals in the criteria to become meaningful users of EHRs in that CMS “rightly recognized the special role that critical access hospitals play in their communities by providing needed access to Medicaid funding under this rule.”

“Unfortunately, CMS continues to place some barriers in the way of achieving widespread IT adoption by our nation’s hospitals and physicians,” stated Umbdenstock. “In particular, individual hospitals in multicampus settings are unfairly excluded from incentive payments. Hospitals within a healthcare system should each be eligible for incentives. Additionally, we are concerned this rule may adversely impact rural hospitals and the patients they serve and exacerbate the digital divide in healthcare.”

The American Medical Association (AMA) and the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) both stated that once thoroughly reviewed, their respective organizations will help educate physicians on the requirements.

“The AMA will carefully review the rule to see if the requirements have been reduced to allow more flexibility than the proposed rule, as AMA urged,” said Steven J. Stack, MD, board member of AMA. “Physicians recognize the potential for health IT and want to adopt new technologies, but costly EHR systems are out of reach for many physicians because of low Medicare payments and the prospect of steep cuts in December.”

CHIME concluded stating once it has thoroughly reviewed the 864-page rule, the organization will publish a summary and in-depth analysis on the implications for CIOs.