The Department of Health and Human Services should extend and make more flexible the meaningful use timelines for the Medicare Electronic Health Record Incentive Program to ensure a safe, orderly transition to the next phase of the program that leaves no health care providers behind, AHA told the Senate Finance Committee and HHS today. “In particular, small and rural hospitals lag behind their larger and urban counterparts,” AHA said in a statement submitted to the committee for a hearing on the issue. “…Our recommendations would allow Stage 2 to start in 2014, but the transition would be more safe and orderly.” Specifically, AHA recommends that HHS allow providers at Stage 1 to meet requirements using either the 2011 or 2014 certified Edition EHR; extend each stage of meaningful use to no less than three years for all providers; establish a 90-day reporting period for the first year of each new stage of meaningful use for all providers; offer greater flexibility to providers in meeting Stage 2; and redirect the electronic clinical quality reporting requirements to focus on a small set of well-tested measures. The American Medical Association joined AHA in submitting similar recommendations to HHS, noting that “time is of the essence in addressing these concerns.” Marty Fattig, CEO of Nemaha County Hospital in Auburn, NE, testified at the hearing. “Policymakers will need to make changes to the meaningful use program to narrow the digital divide and to ensure small and rural hospitals are not left behind as they transition to Stage 2 of meaningful use, and as the positive incentives quickly turn to significant payment penalties,” Fattig said.