The recent post by CMS and ONC articulating their combined intention to elongate the due dates for Stage 2 and Stage 3 of Meaningful Use seemed to get a consensus endorsement from many in the Healthcare IT and provider community. It seems many were predicting a disaster when the old due dates arrived and this was obviously not impacted by the recent failure to roll out a serviceable Healthcare.gov site on the due date (Not). It’s funny how when there is a political disaster like that, everyone goes into CYA mode and it spreads to areas where it might have been better to require the discipline necessary to attain the dates initially prescribed. The top performers, among the many providers attesting to Stage 1 and in some cases Stage 2, are there because they took the initiative seriously at the outset, committed to be leaders rather than laggards, and made the investment of people and effort to achieve their objectives.
If we are to see dramatic changes not only in the implementation of healthcare innovation but also in patient outcomes there must be a level of “can do” attitude along with it. To make the adjustments necessary to achieve real change in healthcare innovation there must be a “we will have a man on the moon in the next decade” attitude. The question is does the willingness to provide extensions support that philosophy or negate it.
If there is to be change in healthcare after so many years of fee for service rather than fee for value, when transactions continue to be backed up by paper files, and physicians, dentists, and other providers find that the systems that are supposed to add efficiency are adding time, the gauntlet must be thrown. Leaders of the organization who are driving change like CMS and ONC must be willing to hold the providers’ feet to the fire and require commitment to achievement. They must continuously take the pulse of their constituents and make certain they are not just looking for relief rather than facing the impossible.
This is not to imply that I am against the extension; I believe there is a bit of logic to the judgment this time. My overwhelming concern is that if we continue to postpone holding the providers accountable for getting to the place they need to be, we will continue to let the payers off the hook for their utter failure in managing healthcare costs, and we will continue to give the politicians ammunition to fire back and forth over the merits of the Affordable Care Act.
My caution to CMS and ONC is: don’t get too fearful of a reenactment of healthcare.gov and don’t hesitate to support and challenge the providers you are guiding with positive reinforcement over their ability and the reward of making all future deadlines. We will all benefit from it and, if done properly, our patient outcomes will improve as well.
We wish you all the best in the New Year and applaud everyone in healthcare innovation; it will, if allowed, change the quality of life and how long you and I live.