Deadline for EMR meaningful use extended

On November 30, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that doctors and small medical facilities who enter into EMR incentive programs in 2011 won't be required to meet Stage 2 of meaningful use until 2014, effectively pushing back the deadline by an entire calendar year.

According to HHS officials, the decision was made in an effort to reverse troubling trends. For example, the agency noted that many doctors have delayed participating in the program simply because they didn't want to make the quick jump to Stage 2 by 2013. Government studies have previously linked EMR adoption to improved health care and an increase in jobs nationwide, making the initiative one of a top priority for the current adminstration.

"We want to provide an added incentive for providers attesting to Meaningful Use in 2011," Joe Kuchler, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare. "We encourage any providers who have been waiting until 2012 to attest to Stage 1 meaningful use now."

While the timetable technically expires at the end of 2011, doctors and their staff members have until February 29 to decide whether to opt into the program, according to experts. Facilities that enroll at this time will still be able to qualify for potentially large incentives that could reduce the overall cost of the upgrade process.

As a result, interested doctors may want to speak with a top provider of electronic medical records software that could help them more easily navigate the transition. For example, Medisoft, Allscripts and Lytec EMR are all available from online providers that can also help with installation, training and troubleshooting, potentially helping doctors in both the short and long term.