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EMR meaningful use rules warrant gradual approach

CMS should let physicians take incremental steps and still qualify for Medicare and Medicaid financial incentives, says a trade group of hospital CIOs.

By Pamela Lewis Dolan — Posted March 17, 2010

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CORRECTION: This article, which posted March 17, incorrectly reported that the American Medical Association had not commented on the EMR meaningful use guidelines. The AMA and other medical organizations presented their comments on March 15, after this article was completed but before it was posted. American Medical News regrets the error. Coverage of organized medicine's comments has been posted. link.

An all-or-nothing approach is wrong for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services if it wants to give physicians a realistic chance to qualify for incentives for meaningful use of electronic medical records, says the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives.

The trade group for hospital chief information officers sent its public comment to CMS regarding the interim final rules for meaningful use of electronic medical records.

Among CHIME's suggestions: a gradual implementation process that would allow physicians to qualify for incentives by achieving 25% of meaningful use objectives by 2011, 50% by 2013, 75% by 2015, and 100% by 2017.

"Without an approach that rewards progress or provides sufficient time, organizations with limited resources will likely have little chance of qualifying for payments, thus widening the 'digital divide' in the country," CHIME wrote.

The organization issued a statement along with the release of the letter, saying it hoped its comments would prove useful to other organizations crafting responses to the rule.

The statement was released on Feb. 26, two days before the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society kicked off its annual meeting, much of which focused on meaningful use.

HIMSS held a town hall meeting at which it detailed its response to the rules. The organization also heard from members on what they thought should be included in the response. The organization said it planned to use all the allotted time to respond before the March 15 deadline.

The American Medical Association has not written a formal public comment to CMS on the interim final rules. But in June 2009 it co-signed a letter with 81 state medical societies that said EMR objectives recommended by a federal advisory board for inclusion in the rules appeared too aggressive and inflexible. In January it published an outline of the meaningful use criteria with guidelines for physicians who want to meet the requirements (link).

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