Electronic Health Records

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CMS Requests Comments on EHR, Health IT Certification Rule

“The RFI provides CMS and ONC with an opportunity to assess policy options that could improve the effectiveness of the certification of health IT."

By Sara Heath

As one of their final acts of 2015, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) released a request for information regarding the certification of EHRs and health IT used in CMS programs.

Overall, this rule, published on December 31 in the Federal Register, involves EHR certification under ONC’s recently-released 2015 Edition Health IT Certification Standards, which sets the standard for certified EHR technology (CEHRT) used under CMS’s meaningful use programs.

Specifically, CMS requests information regarding the frequency with which health IT and EHRs are certified under CMS standards and the number of quality measures examined. These quality measures would eventually certify an EHR for CMS programs including the Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting (IQR) Program and the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS).

This request for information addresses the most recent ONC standards for CEHRT, which will be mandatory for all meaningful use participants starting in 2018. Participants will also be required to use CEHRT for their quality reporting portions of meaningful use starting in 2018. This coincides with the start of Stage 3 meaningful use.

CMS officials explained that this rule aligns with the agency’s overarching goals of the triple aim of improved care quality, wiser spending of money, and the overall health of patient populations. Specifically, the rule enhances how health IT and EHRs play into the triple aim.

The use of health information technology (IT), such as electronic health records (EHR), and data are critical pieces in building this health care delivery system,” wrote CMS’s Director of the Center for Standards & Quality Kate Goodrich, MD, MHS. “Importantly, health IT can also support electronic clinical quality measurement, which allows for more timely access to richer clinical data sources, more rapid feedback for quality improvement, and reduced reporting burden for providers.”

CMS hopes that the request for information will help CMS refine their policy options and make them more usable and practicable throughout the healthcare industry. Additionally, by creating these certifications standards, CMS hopes to streamline the development of health IT and reduce any kinds of burdens on EHR developers and end users.

“The RFI provides CMS and ONC with an opportunity to assess policy options that could improve the effectiveness of the certification of health IT and specifically the certification and testing of EHR products used for the reporting of quality measures,” Goodrich wrote. “We aim to streamline/reduce provider, hospital, and health IT developer burden.”

“The feedback received will inform CMS and ONC of elements that may need to be considered for certification and testing policies and other policies relating to the use of health IT to report quality measures that may be included in the upcoming rulemaking process for CMS quality programs,” she continued.

This request for information will have a 30-day comment period during which industry stakeholders and providers can send feedback to CMS regarding the rule. CMS plans for the comment period to help them improve the overall use of EHRs throughout all aspects of the industry, including in information sharing, quality reporting, and patient connectivity, thus improving all aspects of patient care.

“We are working diligently to improve the means for information exchange and electronic data sharing across and among providers and health systems, increase opportunities for stakeholders to provide feedback, and enhance mechanisms for the capturing of clinical information in EHRs, registries, and other systems to assist with quality reporting and care coordination,” Goodrich concluded.”

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