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Doctors seek halt on meaningful use stage 2 penalties.

The Medical Group Management Association wants an indefinite hold on penalties to be levied on physicians who cannot move on to the next stage of meaningful use of electronic health records.

In a letter to the Health and Human Services (HHS) department, Dr. Susan Turney, MGMA president and chief executive officer, said physicians who already have met requirements for stage 1 meaningful use should not be penalized if they can't meet the requirements for stage 2.

Physicians have been receiving incentive payments to become meaningful users of EHRs under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009. Those payments continue through 2014. But stage 2 starts in 2014, and physicians will be penalized in 2015 if they can't meet the goals.

Dr. Turney noted that while there are 2,200 products and 1,400 complete EHRs that are certified by the government for stage 1, so far, there are only 75 products and 21 complete EHRs that are certified for stage 2.

That dearth of certified technology does not give physicians enough time to upgrade their systems or acquire new technology to allow them to be ready to participate in stage 2, Dr. Turney said.

Physicians not only are waiting on vendors to upgrade their products, but have to consider whether they can afford to invest in new technology. And, if they do, staff will have to be trained, which can take a year or more, she noted.

In addition to indefinitely delaying penalties on physicians who have achieved stage 1 but not stage 2, the MGMA recommended that HHS also extend the reporting period for stage 2 for at least a year. "This extra year would provide additional time for vendors to upgrade their software, certify for the stage 2 criteria, and install the products," Dr. Turney wrote. HHS also should extend the reporting period for stage 1 so that providers who have attested for stage 1 and whose EHR has not been recertified by January 2015 can continue to report on stage 1 during 2014.

The MGMA is also concerned about the stage 2 criteria that would require physicians to give at least 5% of their patients the ability to view, download, and transmit their health information online within 4 days of it being posted.

That requirement should be closely monitored and potentially adjusted, according to the MGMA letter.

The MGMA represents 22,500 leaders at 13,200 organizations that in turn employ or are affiliated with 280,000 physicians.

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Title Annotation:PRACTICE TRENDS
Author:Ault, Alicia
Publication:Clinical Psychiatry News
Date:Sep 1, 2013
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