On Tuesday, CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT announced a proposed rule that would give providers an additional year to upgrade electronic health record systems to meet reporting requirements for Stage 2 of the Medicare meaningful use program, Modern Healthcare reports (Conn, Modern Healthcare, 5/20).
Under the 2009 economic stimulus package, providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHRs can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments.
The agencies noted that the proposed timeline change comes in response to stakeholder feedback about needing more flexibility. The proposed rule acknowledges that many software vendors have had difficulty upgrading their EHR products, receiving certification and upgrading customers’ systems in time to attest to the meaningful use program (Goedert, Health Data Management, 5/20).
CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner in a release said, “By extending Stage 2, we are being receptive to stakeholder feedback to ensure providers can continue to meet meaningful use and keep momentum moving forward” (Murphy, EHR Intelligence, 5/20).
Details of the Proposed Rule
The proposed rule would change:
- The meaningful use timeline;
- The definition of certified EHR technology; and
- Requirements for the reporting of clinical quality measures for 2014 (Health Data Management, 5/20).
Specifically, the proposed rule would provide additional flexibility by allowing eligible professionals, eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals to use the 2011 Edition certified EHR technology or a combination of 2011 and 2014 Edition certified EHR technology for the 2014 EHR reporting period (Sullivan, Healthcare IT News, 5/21).
Providers would be able to attest to meaningful use under the 2013 reporting year definition and use the clinical quality measures from 2013.
In addition, providers scheduled to begin attesting to Stage 2 in 2014 who have run into vendor problems could use 2014 Edition certified EHR technology to meet the 2014 Stage 1 objectives (Gregg, Becker’s Hospital Review, 5/20).
The agencies noted that the proposed changes are “for 2014 only” and apply only for those providers in the Medicare incentive program. They noted that providers seeking to qualify for Medicaid meaningful use in 2014 “must adopt, implement or upgrade to 2014 Edition [certified EHR technology] only” (Health Data Management, 5/20).
The proposed rule also would formalize the agencies’ plan to extend Stage 2 through 2016 and push back of the start of Stage 3 until 2017 (EHR Intelligence, 5/20).
Tom Leary, vice president of government relations for the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, in a statement said the proposed rule “should go a long way toward relieving some of the time crunch eligible professionals and hospitals are experiencing, and help them continue the march toward meaningful use of EHRs and health care transformation.”
College of Healthcare Information Management Executives President and CEO Russell Branzell in a release also praised the rule, saying, “If the government acts quickly to finalize the proposed rule, it will provide the flexibility needed for our members and their organizations to adequately optimize newly deployed technology and ensure success of the program.”
However, both Leary and Branzell raised concerns about the timeline to finalize the change, noting that some hospitals might not have enough time to take advantage of the proposed flexibility (Healthcare IT News, 5/21).
According to Modern Healthcare, the current rule requires hospitals that were planning to advance to Stage 2 to begin their 90-day attestation periods for Stage 2 on the first day of the fiscal quarters, meaning hospitals have just one payment period to react to the rule change. Richard Schreiber, chief medical informatics officer at Holy Spirit Health System in Camp Hill, Pa., said the rule could be “too little too late,” noting, “If it’s going to be four to six month to final [regulations], three months brings us into the next quarter, and I’ve already had to make my decision” (Modern Healthcare, 5/20).