Specialty Practices See Meaningful Use Stage 3 Challenges

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Specialty practices find meaningful use attestation challenging because it seems to be that EHR is oriented toward primary care. As the healthcare system prepare for Stage 3, some EHR vendors have worked to fine-tune the software and develop features that better align with specialty practice needs.

The proposed Stage 3 criteria will increase threshold measures from Stage 2 and have more aggressive timelines for attestation. In 2018, all providers will have to attest in Stage 3. As of January 2015, the CMS' penalty phase went into full effect, and estimates that 275,000 eligible professionals will have a 1% cut to their Medicare reimbursements this year.

There have been many professional societies that have voiced their concerns about the program in general. The American Medical Association wants the CMS to revise its all-or-nothing approach and provide incentive payments to those who meet 75% of criteria, while only penalizing those practices that meet less than 50% of criteria.

Even though physicians are frustrated with meaningful use attestation, there are some positive indications that the CMS may introduce some flexibility in Stage 3. The CMS may reduce or eliminate measures that are not applicable to specialty practices, and it is also considering lowering patient engagement measures to require just one patient to use his or her EHR. The CMS may also be willing to show more flexibility in reporting periods and modifying some thresholds. Specialty specific EHR vendors are also significantly helping specialty practices attest to meaningful use. Specialty EHRs offer features such as seamless integration with clinical data registries and Integrated Health Exchanges that help specialists with reporting, accessing data for population health, meeting quality goals, and improving patient care. Moreover, there is a shift toward cloud-based EHRs, which facilitate information sharing and a degree of physician collaboration. There are many innovations in EHRs that are allowing physicians to address the varying needs of their specialty practices.

Summary by Caroline Smith

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Caroline Smith is currently a senior at the University of Notre Dame and is a contributor to Medical Groups. She is majoring in Science-Business and Spanish. After graduation, Caroline plans on entering the field of healthcare consulting. She is most interested in the evolving policy changes in the healthcare industry and enjoys learning about new technologies that are being developed.