Electronic Health Records

Adoption & Implementation News

EHR Incentive Programs Modified in New Proposed Ruling

By Vera Gruessner

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a proposed rule on April 10 announcing specific modifications to the EHR Incentive Programs. The most important aspect of these modifications is the change to the reporting period in 2015 to a 90-day period in line with the calendar year and a similar EHR reporting period for the following year.

Previously, the meaningful use requirements would pose a financial penalty on eligible providers and hospitals that did not meet the objectives of the EHR Incentive Programs for a full calendar or fiscal year. CMS also proposed changing the reporting year for hospitals from the fiscal to the full calendar year in order to have both eligible professionals and hospitals reporting during the same time period.

Another area that the modified proposed rule affects is the patient action measures, which are part of the Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements regarding patient engagement. The proposed rule simplifies the meaningful use regulations by removing certain reporting mandates that have become redundant or duplicative due to a variety of improvements in EHR function since the inception of the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs.

Comments to this proposed rule need to be sent to CMS electronically, by regular mail, via express mail, or by courier no later than 60 days after the publication of the ruling. The modifications bring greater focus to the advanced use of EHR systems and attempt to align the Stage 1 and Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements from 2015 to 2017 with the Stage 3 Meaningful Use regulations, which are expected to be reported to CMS starting in 2018.

The document explains that the meaningful use stages under the EHR Incentive Programs continue to have an important goal of increasing EHR interoperability among providers and hospitals. In order to reduce redundancy, CMS is modifying the number of objectives and measures that providers need to meet to demonstrate meaningful use of EHR technology.

The proposed ruling document discusses how the requirement mandating that more than 5 percent of patients view and download their health information is causing undue burden on healthcare providers. CMS offers a major change to this requirement through the years 2015 to 2017. Under the modified proposed ruling, only one single patient will need to view, download, or transmit their medical information to a third party.

Additionally, CMS proposes the secure electronic messaging objective under Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements to no longer have a 5 percent threshold but instead have a yes/no reporting requirement asking providers to attest to the statement: “The capability for patients to send and receive a secure electronic message was enabled during the EHR reporting period.”

Another modified proposal CMS put forward is to perform a security risk analysis including addressing data encryptions in certified EHR technology and adopting security updates as necessary during the EHR reporting period.

CMS hopes that these modifications will provide more flexibility to eligible hospitals and providers attempting to meet meaningful use requirements under the EHR Incentive Programs.

To learn more about the proposed rule, read the document here.

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