Timing of the Release of CMS’ Meaningful Use Stage 3 Proposed Rule Suspect

Seems all the chittering was right: The meaningful use Stage 3 proposed rule has been released prior to the annual HIMSS conference, to give all conference goers and government officials in attendance something to talk about.

The news of the rule’s release now comes as no surprise.

The feds like to make these kinds of splashes, to be the bearers of news – any kind of news – especially at big venues where they’re likely to get lots of ink and face time with those in attendance, and the supposed powers that be.

The same thing happened last year at HIMSS when officials, peppered with questions, were vehement that the ICD-10 roll out deadline would not be delayed. Only a few weeks later, federal officials had to walk that back and, untimely, wound up changing the deadline.

These are apples and oranges, I understand, but the grandiosity of the occasion (HIMSS15) means that everyone attending the conference really does need to “bring it.” Vendors, presenters, the feds. At HIMSS, to capture hearts and minds, this is a simple truth — we need to bring it no matter who “we” are.

I’m not trying to be cynical about the announcement or the timing of the proposed Stage 3 rule, but there seems to be something about the nature of its timing that seems suspect. It’s as if CMS wants the news about meaningful use to be relevant. But, as we know, on its own, it is relevant; we all know this.

It’s as if CMS is trying to secure the legacy of a failing program – where as of January 0nly 4 percent of eligible professionals had met meet Stage 2 requirements. It’s sort of like the agency, to make people talk about a once relevant product, is bursting through the HIMSS gates like a has-been celebrity and is announcing, “Don’t worry, we’ll be there.”

How could we forget?

We know you’ll be there, we know we’ll be looking to you for guidance, we know what you have to say is important to us because it impacts the very professions in which we have built our lives.

CMS will make their claims, get us to talk then they’ll ride off into the sunset like Shane.

We’ve seen it all before. The news of CMS’ launch of the Stage 3 proposed rule is like a really bad movie sequel, meant to capture our attention while there is still a remaining thread of relevancy because of the flagship.

Or, maybe I’m the one jumping the shark. Time, or you, will tell me.

Now, for some of the program details:

According to multiple sources, CMS wants to give providers more flexibility, and there is a push to simplify the program, create interoperability among electronic health records and put the focus on improved patient outcomes.

CMS wants Stage 3 rules to drive “better-quality, more cost-effective and coordinated care by improving the way providers are paid and – crucially – bolstering better information sharing.”

“The flow of information is fundamental to achieving a health system that delivers better care, smarter spending and healthier people,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell in a statement. “The steps we are taking today will help to create more transparency on cost and quality information, bring electronic health information to inform care and decision making, and support population health.”

Stage 3, essentially, was designed to simplify what has become an extremely complex and even dislike program. Following the heyday of the early incentives of Stage 1, and the failed effort of Stage 2 to continue to capitalize on that energy, Stage 3 may be a return to the drawing board in hopes of saving a lost program. It advances the use of health IT for improving health delivery, and further aligns the program with other quality and value programs, added Patrick Conway, MD, acting principal deputy administrator at CMS in a prepared statement.

The actual Stage 3 proposed rule can be read here.

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