Climbing the Meaningful Use Mountain

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media , May 8, 2012

Along comes the juggernaut that is Meaningful Use. Like an unwanted early summer monsoon in the Himalayas, Meaningful Use deadlines are staring healthcare providers in the face. In the Himalayas, competing mountain-climbing teams must learn to cooperate and coordinate their expeditions if all wish to reach the summit and descend before the bad weather moves in.

Healthcare isn't so lucky.

Nowhere does that scramble present itself right now like the comments flowing into the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services as the deadline approaches for feedback on Meaningful Use Stage 2 rules. Even with a year's delay, extending Stage 1 into 2013, it's inevitable that in the course of climbing the Meaningful Use mountain, the stronger teams will pull farther ahead, and the weaker teams will fall further behind.

How one reacts to this development probably speaks to one's political leanings. In mountaineering, there are those who feel that strong climbers should make allowances for weaker ones, and there are those who feel just as strongly that strong climbers deserve the prerogatives of their abilities.

On the slopes, though, there are inevitable conflicts. Weaker climbers start earlier and clog up fixed lines. Stronger climbers may have to start even earlier to avoid climber traffic jams, or if they start later, must carefully wind their way around the weaker climbers—a risky maneuver.

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