Lack of certified EHRs puts hospitals in a tough spot
Health information technology experts worry that a dearth of federally certified products could affect hospitals’ abilities to hit their meaningful use reporting mandates.
While the CMS’ proposed rule on the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act would grant physicians a yearlong reprieve from having to upgrade their electronic health record systems, hospitals must still move to the 2015 certified versions of their platforms by yearend in order to meet reporting requirements in the first part of 2018.
But there’s a catch: Vendors aren’t ready. As of June 20, only 74 products—including some from Epic Systems Corp. and Cerner Corp.—were certified under the 2015 Edition Health IT Certification Criteria, according to the ONC’s Certified Health IT Product List.
Steve Posnack, director of the ONC’s Office of Standards and Technology, however, noted that some of the certified products are among the most popular and are therefore used by many providers, adding that the need to make products compliant with meaningful use and MACRA may have contributed to a delay in the development cycle.
So might have some of the new requirements, said Mari Savickis, vice president of federal affairs at the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives. She pointed specifically to the application programming interface requirements as a challenge. “That’s a fairly big jump,” she said. “It’s a lot of work, and it’s complicated. They need more time.”
Though many providers have their products certified, “that’s not the end of the story,” said Pamela McNutt, chief information officer of Methodist Health System, Dallas. “You still have to install it, and these upgrades are huge.”
Methodist recently switched to Epic, and the version installed was already certified. That’s fortuitous, McNutt said, because implementing a new EHR can take up to eight months or so for a hospital system. Even physicians face monthslong implementation times.
“Even once you’ve got the software installed, you have to exercise it,” she said.
CHIME and other provider groups are pushing the CMS to give hospitals more time, as it is proposing to do for physicians.