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Embracing Proposed MU Revisions

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Recently, the CMS and ONC announced a proposed rule that would provide additional flexibility to healthcare organizations and facilitate their continued participation in the Meaningful Use program in 2014. Before sharing our thoughts, let's focus on what led to these proposed revisions.

In something of a domino effect, delays in the certification of EHR products to 2014 Edition CEHRT have delayed the installations and implementations of updated EHRs for provider organizations. Without the certification, organizations cannot successfully attest to meaningful use in 2014. So, the proposed changes announced by the CMS and ONC suggest providing healthcare organizations the option to participate in the Meaningful Use program by either utilizing the 2011 Edition CEHRT standards, if their EHR does not yet meet the 2014 Edition CEHRT standards, or using a combination of the standards. Come 2015, however, all reporting would still be required to use the 2014 Edition CEHRT.

Another component of the proposed rule is the extension of Stage 2 Meaningful Use through 2016 and the postponement of initiating Stage 3 to 2017, which was included in an effort to encourage the continued adoption of CEHRT by healthcare organizations.

Now, let's take a step back to our HIMSS14 survey, where 70% of respondents indicated that their organizations had not yet maximized the full potential of Meaningful Use. Shane Pilcher, vice president here at Stoltenberg Consulting, has emphasized time and again that Meaningful Use is a marathon – not a sprint. The reason healthcare organizations that have achieved Meaningful Use are unable to see its full potential is the same reason other organizations struggle to successfully attest: everyone is in the "sprint" mentality.

The changes proposed by the CMS and ONC are not merely offering flexibility – they are giving providers a chance to run the marathon that is Meaningful Use. In the grand scheme of things, we have to look past rules, programs, successes and failures that tend to force healthcare providers into the "sprint" mentality of getting things done to meet requirements, receive incentives and avoid penalties. To push the industry forward as a whole, we have to refocus our perspective on the end goal, which is improving the healthcare system. And if we'd like to arrive at this objective, we need all healthcare organizations, in their varying stages of Meaningful Use, to build a momentum of progress in unison.

As the saying goes, progress is progress, no matter how small. The proposed revisions to Meaningful Use would support such sentiments by allowing all healthcare organizations to maintain their progress in deploying and optimizing their technologies. The successful adoption of EHRs will lay the bricks crucial to building a strong foundation for the improvement of healthcare, which is why a culture of encouragement must be fostered around it for all providers. Clinging to the rigidity of rules and agendas will lead to providers dropping out of the Meaningful Use program and leave them hindered in the journey to deliver better care.

So, the changes proposed by the CMS and ONC should be embraced and implemented – because how successful we are in improving healthcare cannot be measured in terms of those who meet the requirements of a program and those who don't. It must be measured by the cumulative progress towards the greater goal, by all participants. And at the end of the day, that will be the biggest contributing factor in allowing healthcare organizations and professionals to deliver a new, improved healthcare system.

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