Posted By Monique Dever On February 10, 2015

Is Stage 3 Meaningful Use in the hot seat?

Ready or not, Stage 3 Meaningful Use is coming albeit with some needed flexibility.


There is no exception to adopt and become meaningful use (MU) compliant: all clinics, including public health, must comply. With huge investments already made by numerous healthcare centers nationwide, there is a demand for the sustainability of the meaningful use program. But, according to the majority of eligible professionals (EPs), something needs to change for Stage 3 to make it happen.


While some local health departments have not even started the process of complying with MU stage 1 (which started in 2010), MU stage 2 momentum picked up in 2014 and now the nation is getting ready to MU 3 in 2017. Ready or not, it is coming and there is no exception. MU specifies a number of things, including basics of complying with privacy and security requirements in this electronic world. Noncompliance is just not an option, even for local health departments.


In our blog “Nine easy steps to get your meaningful use $s” we briefly explained steps to help guide you through the MU application process. Objectives and incentives payments were two elements of MU requirements, and are elements that have been burdensome to say the least for most public health departments and EPs.


Each MU “stage” has its own set of objectives. There are 13 core objectives and 9 menu objectives for Stage 1 (2014) and 17 core and 6 menu objectives for Stage 2. Each year there is a payout when providers meet the objectives for the MU stage they are in. But the rules of MU are murky and EPs find the attestation process difficult at best.


Though the CMS MU incentive program is good, it is very complex so achieving compliance can be very demanding. A good Electronic Health Record (EHR) software which has a built-in, easy to view, MU compliance reports is a must. Local health departments do not always have access to dedicated IT staff and need help to get their incentive payments. You should seek an EHR vendor who understands nuances of public health and offers EHR incentive assistance service. An EHR vendor who is committed, contractually, to help you navigate complexity of MU compliance is highly recommended.


Stage 3, meant to be rolled out for 2017, focuses on improved patient outcomes. This focus will include such things as engaging patients and families, improving healthcare coordination, and improving population and public health registries. Stage 3 is where EHR benefits are meant to skyrocket into full use. But under current rules, will MU just collapse? With more than enough EPs desperate for a revision to Stage 3 requirements, things are thankfully already moving toward a more sustainable program.


Recently the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) indicated that there will be more flexibility in the MU rules that the industry has been desperately hoping for. According to the proposed rule, CMS is “proposing changes to the reporting period, timelines, and structure of the program, including providing a single definition of meaningful use. EP’s have been hoping to have a more concise framework to reduce confusion resulting from current MU requirements. A more formal announcement is expected this spring.




About Monique Dever

Monique integrates research and networking with her passion for health and well-being to provide important, up-to-date news, resources and current events to the public health communities. She is the Marketing Executive for Patagonia Health, an Electronic Health Records (EHR) software company focused on the public health sector.