Meaningful use has undergone a flurry of development and discussion in recent years, but the pace of the evolution has been precipitously slow recently. That is due to a contentious new rule included in the HITECH Act that could begin affecting providers as early as next year. Under the rule, providers that fail to attest for stage 2 after completing stage 1 could be forced to pay financial penalties.

Providers and HIM professionals are eagerly waiting for further guidance from regulators about the potential for stage 2 flexibility. A proposal currently on the table would allow organizations to use technology certified for electronic heath records (EHRs) based on 2011 standards in order to pass attestation in 2014. This flexibility is a direct response to the fact that very few organizations have successfully implemented EHR technology that satisfies the 2014 standards.

For obvious reasons, healthcare organizations are excited about the proposed rule flexibility but frustrated that it currently seems trapped in limbo. During a public comment period held less than two months ago, some of the major players in the industry weighed in on the current state of meaningful use and the effect that regulatory uncertainty could have on their business goals. The comments reveal some frustration on the part of healthcare providers at the inability of software developers to get a viable product to market in advance of stage 2 implementation.

The Medical Group Management Association has proposed that providers should be able to use 2011 certification in both 2014 and 2015. The Health Information and Management Systems Society expressed a concern that there is a disconnect between clinical quality measure data and the standards for meaningful use, potentially forcing providers to use two different technologies simultaneously. Various other stake holders weighed in to express their concerns that stage 3 deadlines would arrive before the issues with stage 2 were worked out.

These recent frustrations come on the heels of a recent survey which suggested that 22 percent of physicians either oppose meaningful use or plan to abandon it. Conversely, meaningful use incentives have ballooned to $25 billion per year. When considered in concert, the future of meaningful use is uncertain. A growing number of critics are appearing at the same time that an expanding number of organizations are taking advantage of the incentive programs. And in the midst of it all, regulators have yet to make a final decision about one of the most hotly debated aspects of stage 2. No matter how you come down on the issue, you can rely on the experienced recruiting team at MedPartners HIM to keep you updated as stage 2 evolves into its final form.