Challenges Plague Key Health IT Initiatives in 2014

Healthcare organizations that are unprepared for the coming wave of new regulations in 2014 could be in for a bumpy ride, according to a new report from Bloomberg/BNA.

Managing the competing priorities of meeting stage 2 requirements of the “meaningful use” EHR Incentive Program, implementing ICD-10 by the October deadline, and staying on top of the HIPAA Omnibus Final Rule could prove to be unmanageable, investigators wrote in their “Health IT & Industry Report.”

Although the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has touted its improving meaningful use enrollment numbers, critics told Bloomberg/BNA that a lack of stage 2 certified EHR products—as well as the costs associated with switching vendors between stage 1 and stage 2—present a significant hurdle. These two problems may also lead providers to drop out of the program altogether, James L. Oakes, principle at Health Care Information Consultants, warns in the article.

“I would not be surprised to see many eligible professionals (EPs) ‘opting out’ of meaningful use, particularly Medicaid EPs,” Oakes told Bloomberg/BNA. “There is no penalty for Medicaid EPs who do not participate. My prediction is that this will start to happen in 2014, with many more bailouts in 2015,” he said.

Similar concerns about lack of preparedness for ICD-10 implementation abound in the report, too, prompting some to predict another delay and grace periods for smaller providers.

“I foresee a delay. People opposed to the ACA [Affordable Care Act] will use ICD-10 as another example of the expensive government bureaucracy, and they will ridicule CMS [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] by publicizing some of the more non-sensible codes,” L. Howard Wizig, president and CEO of Vivius, told investigators.

As for enforcement of the year-old HIPAA Omnibus Final Rule, officials from the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) told Bloomberg/BNA that audits will focus on compliance with HITECH Act changes, particularly the provisions that apply to business associates of covered entities.

However, OCR Director Leon Rodriguez noted that he was unsure how much money the agency has to invest in its auditing functions, with regard to HIPAA.

“We continue to assess our options for moving forward with audits in 2014 and hope to have more clarity on the available resources in January,” Rodriguez told investigators. Click here to read an Office of the Inspector General report on OCR’s audit vulnerabilities in investigating cyber and other crimes.

 

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