Should We Hit the Pause Button on Meaningful Use?

I saw this question hit my email this morning: Should We Hit the Pause Button on Meaningful Use?

It’s a controversial question without a really solid answer. A number of organizations have already called for a delay on meaningful use stage 3. They have some reasonable points to be made for why MU stage 3 should be delayed. I won’t be surprised if we see a delay in future stages of meaningful use. ONC won’t want to do it, but I think they’ll be pressured to the point that they see no other option. The government approval process just can’t work fast enough.

However, the idea of pausing meaningful use is a bit different. A delay isn’t necessarily a pause. If you delay MU stage 3, then people are still required to attest to MU stage 2. Some people (including some in congress) are asking if we should pause MU completely. The idea being that we should do an analysis of the impact of MU stage 1 and how we can make MU stage 2 and 3 more effective. The problem with this idea is that many have committed a large investment to their EHR and so pulling out promised EHR incentive money won’t likely happen.

There’s actually a growing voice to stop meaningful use completely. Certainly this will upset plenty of organizations, but I find the discussion of stopping meaningful use incredibly intriguing. Would stopping meaningful use and not paying out any more government money for EHR software have a negative impact on EHR adoption?

That’s a hard question to answer. I imagine there are a few hospitals that have started down the road of EHR adoption that would definitely step on the brakes. I don’t think the same is true in the ambulatory space. Those who’ve started down the path to EHR are already on their way and likely won’t turn back.

I’m sure stopping the meaningful use EHR incentive money would cause quite an uproar. I can’t imagine them doing it, but I think it’s unfortunate that we can’t at least have the conversation. Last I checked we’d spent about $8 billion in EHR incentive money. If the estimated $36 billion is still accurate, that leaves $28 billion of EHR incentive money left. Don’t you think we should at least consider whether we should spend that $28 billion the way we’re doing it?