CMS Flinches on Meaningful Use

CMS Flinches on Meaningful Use


Five years after the HITECH Act, the meaningful use incentive program for electronic health records (EHRs) is still confusing providers.  Every week, it seems, there is a new headline about the requirements around meaningful use - whether it’s deadlines changing or the specifics on what providers must demonstrate in order to meet the requirements. What was true one week is not true the next. So, the latest in this ongoing saga?

On January 29, 2015, CMS’s Patrick Conway, MD, MSc, deputy administrator for innovation and quality, issued a blog post stating that the agency intends to issue a rule that would update the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs beginning in 2015 and give eligible providers and eligible hospitals more flexibility in meeting program requirements.  This announcement comes in response to an outcry from providers, who potentially would have to demonstrate meaningful use for the entire year of 2015 or face Medicare penalties.

The new rule, which is expected this spring, intends to respond to the provider concerns about meaningful use.  The specific nature of the proposals that CMS is considering are:

  • Realign hospital EHR reporting periods to the calendar year to allow eligible hospitals more time to incorporate 2014 Edition software into their workflows and better to align with other CMS quality programs.
  • Modify other aspects of the program to match long-term goals, reduce complexity, and lessen providers’ reporting burdens.
  • Shorten the EHR reporting period in 2015 to 90 days to accommodate these changes.

CMS clarified that although it intends to pursue the changes to meaningful use beginning in 2015, such rules would be separate from the forthcoming Stage 3 proposed rule that is expected to be released by early March. CMS intends to limit the scope of the Stage 3 proposed rule to the requirements and criteria for meaningful use in 2017 and subsequent years. 

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