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Customer Experience and Design

Is Stage II of Meaningful Use just what the Doctor Ordered?

The newest announcement regarding Meaningful Stage II requirements was made on February 22, 2012, and met an equal balance of fanfare and disappointment from the healthcare sector. Apparently, a fair number of players were hoping that Stage II of Meaningful Use would raise the bar to better tie HIT adoptions, such as EHRs, to improvements in care. However, the Office of the National Coordinator opted for less ambitious and more flexible Stage II.

Stage II of Meaningful Use proposes that eligible providers now meet 17 core objectives and 3 of 5 menu items versus Stage I requirements of 16 core objectives and 2 of 4 menu items. Additionally, the timelines have been extended, giving providers more time to get into Stage 1 and a longer ramp-up into Stage 2.

While some may be frothing at the mouth with disappointment, it is important to remember a few things.

First, there important strides made with the proposed Stage II requirements. The highlights include:

  1. Requirements made to include “safety-enhanced” EHRs. Providers will be required to report on safety criteria relating to medications to minimize medical errors. In essence they raised the bar for computerized provider order entry (CPOE) systems. This means that providers will not be able to skim by with minimal EHR capacity. Instead, they will have to use their technology to improve care.
  2. The newly introduced quality measures nail down how “meaningful” information captured in an EHR is. These measures help healthcare evolve from implementation of EHR systems to getting value from their investment.
  3. Requirements about information exchange requires organizations to go from having the ability to transfer information through a Health Information Exchange (HIE) to actually transferring data through a HIE. In doing so, an organization must meet certain privacy and security guidelines, which may be a noteworthy task for some.

Second, Stage II of Meaningful Use allows the sector and the many different players to get up-to-speed. Too little, too late, you say? Well, remember that the value of Meaningful Use comes from the insights that the analytics provide us. Those insights must be digested and organizational changes implemented and realized before there will be a change in outcomes. We cannot ask providers to change the entire forest without giving them time to examine each and every tree.

Stage II meaningful use may be considered lackluster by some, but we must remember three sayings: “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” “the cheapest option isn’t always the least expensive,” and “if you don’t have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it over?” Let us all remember – the HIT journey is expensive and it isn’t going to happen overnight. Let’s praise government officials and public organizations for giving organizations the time they need to do it right the first time.

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