On Thursday, CMS announced plans to issue a rule that would update the meaningful use program to give eligible providers and eligible hospitals more flexibility in meeting program requirements, Healthcare Informatics reports.
Under the 2009 economic stimulus package, providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health records can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments.
In a blog post, CMS said it is considering proposals that would:
- Alter parts of the program to reduce complexity and providers’ reporting burdens, as well as to match long-term goals;
- Give eligible hospitals more time to incorporate 2014 Edition certified EHR software into their workflows by realigning EHR reporting periods to the calendar year; and
- Shorten the 2015 EHR reporting period from 365 days to 90 days (Perna/Hagland, Healthcare Informatics, 1/29).
CMS spokesperson Jibril Boykin told Health Data Management that the proposed 90-day reporting period in 2015 would apply to “Medicare and Medicaid eligible professionals, eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals” (Slabodkin, Health Data Management, 1/29).
According to FierceEMR, stakeholders have repeatedly expressed concern that meeting the one-year reporting period requirement would be too difficult. Further, several lawmakers have proposed bills to shorten the reporting period (Durben Hirsch, FierceEMR, 1/29).
The modified rule, which is expected to be released in the spring, would be separate from the Stage 3 proposed rule that is set to come out in March (CMS blog, 1/29). The Office of Management and Budget received the proposed rule for Stage 3 earlier this month (iHealthBeat, 1/6).
Patrick Conway — CMO and deputy administrator of innovation and quality at CMS — noted the proposals to add more flexibility to the program were in direct response to stakeholders’ complaints and aimed to quell their concerns about software implementation and information exchange readiness (Healthcare Informatics, 1/29).
He wrote that the changes reflect HHS’ “commitment to creating a health IT infrastructure that elevates patient-centered care, improves health outcomes and supports the providers who care for patients”(CMS blog, 1/29).
Several stakeholders, lawmakers and health IT groups praised CMS’ announcement.
Joseph Kvedar — founder and director of Partners HealthCare’s Center for Connected Health — said that the “common-sense adjustments” are “good news for doctors and hospitals.” He added, “The message seems to be, ‘Government has listened and we’re responding.'”
In addition, John Halamka — CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and chair of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT Standard Committee — said, “This is fabulous news, because the stakeholders in the community believed in the goals of Stage 2, but the timing was too much, too fast” (Gold/Pittman, Politico Pro, 1/29).
Meanwhile, College of Health Information Management Executives President and CEO Russell Branzell said, “It truly is an answer for what we have been asking for quite some time, actually all the way back to late 2013 and early 2014.” Branzell noted that the proposed rule should pass quickly as it likely will not meet much resistance (Murphy, EHR Intelligence, 1/29).
In a statement, Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), who earlier this month re-introduced the Flexibility in Health IT Reporting Act, which sought to mandate a 90-day reporting period in 2015, said, “I commend CMS on their announcement today and am pleased to see them implement the 90-day reporting period as was suggested in the Flex-IT Act.” She added, “The additional time and flexibility afforded by these modifications will help hundreds of thousands of providers meet Stage 2 requirements in an effective and safe manner” (Health Data Management, 1/29).