We are now January 2015, and many are wondering what will happen with Meaningful Use this year.  If 2014 is any indication it does not bode well for 2015.  In November of last year, the official numbers on the adoption of Meaningful Use came out and they were far from spectacular.  Actually, some described them as a spectacular failure.

To say the least, the numbers point to an anemic certification level.  Stage 1 has been out for several years and 2014 was supposed to be the year for Stage 2 and the beginning of Stage 3 (Stage 3 has since been pushed back to 2017).  The numbers played out as follows:  only 17% of Hospitals across the United States have met the MU Stage 2 requirements and less than 38 percent of eligible hospitals (EHs) and critical access hospitals (CAHs) have met either Stage 1 or 2 of Meaningful Use in 2014.  For Optometrist the decline is staggering, from 11,959 providers that had certified for Stage 1 to only 17 that where able to certify for stage 2.

MU2014

The issues for non-certification are complex, but essentially they boil down to cost, complexity, and the reality of the patient demographics.  One criteria that everyone seems to have difficulty with is engaging patients to visit ones EHR.  This is not simple or easy, and from the patients point of view may not even be desirable.

A recent poll (January 2015) of nearly 2,000 physicians, by Medical Practice Insider and SERMO, reveals that 55 percent do not plan to attest for meaningful use Stage 2 in 2015. The question is Why?  The comments from some doctors speak volumes as to the possible reasons and the difficulty providers face.

“I did Stage 1 in years one and two, but it is almost impossible to do Stage 2. It requires patients to have emails and engage my EHR,” one cardiologist explained. “Well, I have a lot of patients in their 80s and 90s, and they don’t have computers, let alone email.”

A family practitioner shared what appears to be something of a mantra among medical practices deciding whether or not to pursue Stage 2. “The following sentence is false 100 percent of the time: ‘We completed meaningful use stages 1 and 2 and as a consequence the care we provide for our patients has improved.’”

Another common comment is “I’ve done Stage 1 three times now. I have the option to do either Stage 2 or Stage 1 for the fourth time. I would rather stay with Stage 1 for now because my patients are reluctant to use messaging and I personally do not like the interface for my portal,”

All of these comments are echoed for eye care professionals also.  The financial cost issue is that most providers report a reduction in the amount of patients they can see and an increase in cost and time required to meet MU.  When Providers calculate the Return on Investment(ROI) that Meaningful Use represents and believe that their care to the patient has not improved because of Meaningful Use, the penalty of not certifying becomes very attractive.  The numbers of optometrist opting out show that the penalty is easier to take than the cure that Meaningful Use is supposed to be.

2015 is a do or die year for Meaningful Use.  Either it has to be significantly changed and made easier for providers to meet the requirements or it is doomed to be a footnote in history.  This is especially true when one considers the added complexity and requirements that stage 3 will be bringing to the table.  If only 17 optometrist have qualified for stage 2 what will be the number for Stage 3?