More Hospitals Ready for Meaningful Use, But Have Numbers Hit A Plateau?

Last week, HIMSSreleased some new data suggesting that more hospitals are getting up to speed with Meaningful Use Stage 1 requirements.  In theory, that should be encouraging. On the other hand, the fact that the share of prepared hospitals hasn’t hit anything like one hundred percent strikes me as a serious issue.

Here’s the deal. In February 2011, 25 percent of 778 hospitals surveyed reported that they expected to meet Stage 1 MU requirements. As of last month, HIMSS says, the number had jumped to 41 percent, a fairly large increase (16 points) which I assume is statistically significant.  Many of those who reported being  prepared were academic medical centers and big-city facilities.

That being said, 53 percent of hospitals reported that they weren’t likely to meet Stage1 MU standards in time; small-town and rural facilities were especially likely to be unready.

Folks, I don’t know about you, but to my mind 53 percent is a large number to be unprepared at this late date. Not only that, if the number of hospitals that are ready to rock has only climbed 16 percent in eight months, the whole process of preparing for Meaningful Use may have stalled completely among the underdogs in the process.

If I were a public policy planner, I’d be concerned about this trend. For one thing, Meaningful Use isn’t worth a great deal if it’s popular largely with those who don’t need the money.  If the idea behind MU is to incentivize every hospital to use EMRs well, well, epic fail.

So, to me this raises several important questions:

* If smaller or more isolated hospitals are eager, but unable, to meet MU Stage 1 requirements, what will it take to get them over the hump?

* Are HHS, state and local governments and private foundations ready to step up to the plate and help small/rural players with technical, financial and resource issues they face in rolling out a “meaningful” EMR implementation?  Or are the smaller players going to be left high and dry?

* Will we ever have a functional HIE network in this country if HHS doesn’t push to make sure every hospital has a good chance of getting a foundational EMR in place?

Let me know what you think. Unless I’ve missed something here, major cracks are starting to show in the entire MU strategy, but maybe I’m wrong. Your turn to weigh in!

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.