Kaiser Health News is reporting that hospitals aren’t very happy with the final “meaningful use” regulations released yesterday, even though HHS loosened some of the requirements from the draft version. The federal government is providing “$27 billion over the next 10 years to reward doctors and hospitals for installing electronic health systems,” but to receive the incentive payments, providers will have to show that they are making “meaningful use” of the technology. In the final regulation, “hospitals will have to meet 14 objectives, and at least five more goals, instead of being required to meet 23 objectives” and will be required to prescribe a smaller percentage of prescriptions electronically.
The Federation of American Hospitals, which represents for-profit hospitals, issued a statement in support of the new rules, but the American Hospital Association isn’t buying it:
Hospitals will have some additional flexibility in choosing which measures to use to qualify as “meaningful users” of electronic health records under a final rule issued today by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. At the same time, the AHA is concerned that the requirements may still be out of reach for many of America’s hospitals and more analysis is needed to determine the overall impact on hospitals. “Unfortunately, CMS continues to place some barriers in the way of achieving widespread IT adoption by our nation’s hospitals and physicians,” said AHA President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock.….However, AHA is concerned that individual hospitals in multi-campus settings continue to be excluded from the incentive payments, and that the rule requires hospitals to immediately use Computerized Provider Order Entry, “which can be complicated, costly to implement, and takes time to do right,” Umbdenstock said.
HHS issued the new regulations following extensive consultation with the provider groups and the final rules reflect their concerns. The AHA is upset, but I suspect the if everyone simply accepted the regulations, they would be fairly weak and meaningless. We’ll need to start somewhere if we’re to move to a interoperable standard and if hospitals are to begin reducing costs by 1.5 percentage points each year as they and other health care interest groups promised during the health care reform debate.