Possible Meaningful Use reprieve on the horizon?

UseHealth care providers may find reason to celebrate after a recent announcement by the agency that oversees the federal Meaningful Use requirements.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced in late January that they intend to “engage in rulemaking” this spring to update the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs, more commonly referred to as the Meaningful use program. The most significant change seems to be the CMS’ intent to alter the 2015 EHR attestation reporting period from 365 days to 90 days.

The bottom line: providers aiming to qualify for this program could need only three months’ worth of reporting data to show they’ve met the requirements for 2015, instead of a year’s worth.

The year-long reporting period for Stage 2 attestation had been a source of much consternation among a variety of health care organizations and had even sparked legislation by a North Carolina congresswoman in the House of Representatives last year to change it. The CMS expects the new rule to be “responsive to provider concerns about software implementation, information exchange readiness, and other related concerns in 2015.”

“These intended changes would help to reduce the reporting burden on providers, while supporting the long term goals of the program,” says Patrick Conway, MD and CMS chief medical officer, writing on the CMS blog.

Stage 1 Meaningful Use requirements, which providers could begin meeting in 2011, include implementing clinical decision support tools (such as the YouScript Personalized 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.

The CMS summarized the proposed changes this way:

  • Realign hospital EHR reporting periods to the calendar year to allow eligible hospitals more time to incorporate 2014 Edition software into their workflows and to better 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.

These proposed updates are separate from the forthcoming Stage 3 proposed rule that is expected to be released by early March, the CMS says, with Stage 3 requirements likely beginning in 2016 or 2017. Stage 3 is expected to focus on improved outcomes and include goals such as giving patients access to self-management tools and decision support for national high-priority conditions.

Health care groups like the American Medical Association (AMA) have praised the CMS’ proposed changes, saying they seem to be needed since more than 50 percent of eligible professionals will face payment penalties this year because they could not fulfill Meaningful Use requirements. Only about 3 percent of physicians and other eligible providers had attested to Stage 2 of Meaningful Use in 2014, the AMA reports.

“By making changes to Stage 2 of the program, we can be sure that CMS is listening to physicians,” AMA Board of Trustees Chair Barbara McAneny, MD, writes on the AMA website.

For more on the CMS’s announcement, visit their website here.