New rule offers providers Meaningful Use flexibility

Meaningful UseHealth care providers have been granted a bit of flexibility in how they use certified electronic health records (EHR) technology in meeting federal Meaningful Use requirements for 2014.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have announced that providers will be allowed to use EHR technology certified to 2011 Meaningful Use standards to meet Stage-2 requirements, but for 2014 only. Starting in 2015, providers will only be able to use EHRs that meet 2014 standards to fulfill the Meaningful use Stage 2 requirements.

Stage 1 requirements, which providers could begin meeting in 2011, include implementing clinical decision support tools (such as YouScript Personal Prescribing software) and adding computerized provider order entry systems. Stage 2 focuses on: more rigorous health information exchange, increased requirements for e-prescribing and incorporating lab results, electronic transmission of patient care summaries across multiple settings, and more patient-controlled data.

Despite the new flexibility, the rule released August 29 has apparently not been well-received by all. Forbes reports that the American Medical Association, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives and a handful of other medical industry groups say that the full year of Meaningful Use Stage 2 requirement reporting required in 2015 would be too difficult for providers to meet. The year-long reporting period is a jump up from the 90-day one for the Stage 1 requirements.

The new rule has also sparked proposed legislation from a North Carolina Congresswoman that would shorten the reporting period to 90 days for 2015. The bill’s sponsor, Republican Representative Renee Ellmers, says the bill is designed to help hundreds of thousands of providers meet Stage 2 requirements in an effective and safe manner.

According to CMS data released in June, 264,538 Medicare-eligible medical professionals had attested to the Stage 1 requirements, compared to 106 that had already met Stage 2 requirements. For eligible hospitals, 4,054 facilities had met Stage 1 requirements, compared to four hospitals that had met Stage 2 by mid-2014. For more information on the EHR incentive program and more details on Stage 2 requirements, visit the CMS sites here and here.