HIT and Stage 2 Meaningful Use

Health Information Technology (HIT) is expected to make patients' medical information not only more accessible, but easier to share among providers. Yet, despite the promising capabilities of HIT, providers are not entirely convinced about the costs that come with health technology.

Health Information Technology (HIT) is expected to make patients’ medical information not only more accessible, but easier to share among providers. Meaningful use of HIT can improve the quality of care, increase patient safety, and reduce unnecessary procedures and costs. This week also just so happens to be National Health IT week, which was established as a way to raise national awareness of the importance of HIT in health reform. Yet, despite the promising capabilities of HIT, providers are not entirely convinced about the costs that come with health technology.

In addition to the use of computers, phone services, data processing, and electronic health records (EHRs), many doctors must also consider the costs of specialized IT equipment used in imagining and laboratory services. According to a study from the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), spending on HIT in group practices rose 27.8% from a median $15,211 per full-time equivalent physician (FTE) in 2008 to $19,439 in 2012.

“That 27.8% translates into an average annual increase of 5.6%,” wrote Robert Lowes in a recent article. “During that same period, inflation averaged 1.8% each year, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Medicare fee-for-service rates rose annually by 1% on average from 2008 through 2011 and then plateaued in 2012.”

MGMA additionally noted physician concern over meeting stage 2 meaningful use requirements under the federal EHR incentive programs.

"Currently, there are more than 2200 products and almost 1400 'complete EHRs' certified under the 2011 criteria for ambulatory EPs. As of this writing, there are only 75 products and 21 complete EHRs certified for the stage 2 (2014) criteria. This lack of vendor readiness has significant implications for EPs,” president and CEO Susan Turney, MD, said in a statement. "Without the appropriate software upgrades and timely vendor support, EPs will be unable to meet the stage 2 requirements and thus will be unfairly penalized starting in 2015."

To improve physician readiness for stage 2 meaningful use, MGMA recommends building more flexibility into the stage 2 reporting requirements, as well as extending the required reporting period.

"We are also concerned that the current 'all or nothing' approach to achieving meaningful use may prove to be problematic for EPs attempting to meet the more stringent stage 2 requirements," Dr Turney stated.

Other physician groups like The American Academy of Family Physicians have also called for a delay in stage 2 implementation. While HIT remains an important focus, most groups need more time to incorporate technology efficiently.

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP

Around the Web

Information Technology Costs for Physicians Top Inflation [Medscape]

MGMA Joins Chorus on Stage 2 Concerns [Medical Practice Insider]