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Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013

This Week's News

Senators call for one-year EHR meaningful use extension

Senators call for one-year EHR meaningful use extension

More than a dozen senators are urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue a one-year extension to medical professionals who are not yet ready to make the leap from Stage 1 to Stage 2 of the electronic health record (EHR) meaningful use program. Stage 2 began Tuesday for hospitals and is set to begin Jan. 1, 2014, for physicians.

In a letter sent last week to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the 17 senators underscored that the agency's aggressive timeline for implementing Stage 2 could have harmful consequences for physicians and patients alike.

"If the goal is to improve care by achieving broad and meaningful utilization of EHRs," the letter states, "providing sufficient time to ensure a safe, orderly transition through Stage 2 is critical."

The letter identifies three key problems with the current timeline:

  • Given the "significant time pressure in 2014," many of the 500,000 meaningful use participants will be unable to progress to Stage 2.
  • The timeline for Stage 2 may widen the digital divide for small and rural practices that lack resources and may not be a top priority for software vendors.
  • Rushing software upgrades may stifle innovation and increase medical errors.

"We strongly support successful implementation of EHRs," AMA Immediate-Past Chair Steven J. Stack, MD, said in a news release applauding the senators' efforts. "And we join these senators in expressing our concern that overly aggressive deadlines may widen the digital divide for small and rural practices and may have serious unintended consequences including stifling innovation and increasing medical errors."

The AMA and the American Hospital Association (AHA) sent a similar letter to Sebelius in July, calling for policy adjustments that would establish greater flexibility in meeting Stage 2 requirements and ensure a safe, orderly transition that leaves no one behind. Read more about the AMA-AHA recommendations in a recent story in AMA Wire.