"Meaningful use" has become the bane of many an existence in the health care and IT industries.
For months it wasn't clear what the phrase actually meant for those implementing electronic medical records systems. Then, after the Department of Health and Human Services released proposed standards, there was much debate as to whether they were too onerous. Comments led to reconsideration, and revised standards were eventually released, which most found more bearable.
Then there were the timelines and deadlines. Ropes & Gray partner Michael Beauvais, whose practice focuses on health care law, explained last year:
You can start to get money under the program starting in 2011. It's a sliding scale. Let's just take the physicians for a second. If you satisfy the meaningful use criteria, you can get $18,000 in the first year under the Medicare incentive program. Then if you continue to meet the criteria, you'll get $12,000 the next year, and then it goes down to $8,000, $4,000 and $2,000 in each subsequent year. And then once you hit $44,000, you're done.
Here's what wasn't immediately clear: Those standards and timelines address only the first stage of incentive eligibility.
And InformationWeek's Anthony Guerra pointed out something this week that few have noticed to this point. He wrote:
[A paper from Advisory Board] noted that while there was nothing to lose from attesting in 2012, there was everything to gain. Namely, it cautioned that attesting in 2011 would mean an organization's Stage 2 reporting clock would start on Oct. 1, 2012. The problem with that scenario was the final Stage 2 rule would only be released months earlier in mid-2012.
When the timing issue came to the attention of the meaningful use workgroup, Guerra said, chair Paul Tang tasked the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT with determining what had happened and how it could be corrected.