The focus on Meaningful Use and the dollars it brings to the table is overwhelming I.T. strategic plans in many organizations. The result has been an exclusive focus on the Stage 1 requirements and a rush to submit for those dollars as soon as possible.
It’s important to keep in mind that HITECH doesn’t end at Meaningful Use Stage 1. There are two more stages after that and we know far less about what they’ll include.
This is where timing becomes a factor in the plan. For some organizations, the correct strategy is to wait to submit for Stage 1 funds. There’s a lot that needs to put into place to qualify for Stage 1 requirements and you can only spend two years in Stage 1 before you need to meet Stage 2 compliance.
However, you can qualify for Stage 1 for the first time in 2011 and still receive your full payment through the program. Full payment, that is, as long as you don’t fail to meet Stage 2 in time.
In other words, even if you could submit today, you may want to wait until mid-2011, when Stage 2 specifications are set to be finalized. That way, you know what Stage 2 includes and whether or not you want a little extra time to meet those goals. It’s risky to commit to having Stage 2 requirements in place in 2013 when you don’t know the details. And if you submit for Stage 1 now, that’s exactly what you’ll be doing.
But just as with Stage 1, it would be foolish to wait for those specifications to be complete before starting to put the appropriate tools into place. Organizations that that decided to “wait and see” what the Stage I requirements include are now finding themselves somewhat behind.
My recommendation: Even if you could submit sooner – hold off until you’ve performed your gap analysis between where you are and what Stage 2 commitments will involve. If you’re on track to hit Stage 2 without trouble, move forward. If Stage 2 includes any big surprises, however, you’ll be glad you gave yourself some extra time.