Electronic Health Records

Policy & Regulation News

UPDATE: Pending Modifications Holding Back EHR Incentive Programs

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

UPDATE: CMS issued the final rule for meaningful use modifications on October 6.

The proposed modifications for meaningful use between 2015 and 2017 are having an effect on Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) EHR Incentive Programs data.

This comes from a meaningful use data update to be provided during today's monthly meeting of the Health IT Policy Committee.

"Due to proposed modifications for 2015, Medicare attestation for EHR reporting periods in 2015 has not been available," the document reads.

However, available are figures over the past few months show a sluggishness in eligible professional and hospital participation in the EHR Incentive Programs.

Active registrations for meaningful use have remained more or less consistent over the past four months. An exception is the significant jump in Medicare EP active registrations between July and August 2015 when the number jumped from 678 to 1283.

Meaningful use active registrations

A similar increase occurred for EHs which skyrocketed from 2 to 26 between those same months. Until the proposed modifications to meaningful use requirements go into effect, EHs still report based on the fiscal calendar and would be required to report a full year's worth of meaningful use data.

What has not changed significantly is the number of EPs and EHs paid for either Stage 1 or Stage 2 Meaningful Use over the past several months.

That being said, EPs appear to have outpaced EHs in their progress with Stage 2. Between May and August of 2015, the number of Medicare EPs having been paid for successfully demonstrating Stage 2 rose from 50398 to 57299.

Meaningful use incentive payments by stage

The number of EHs, meanwhile, have only increased modestly. In May, the number of EHs paid for demonstrating Stage 2 reached 1461 hospitals. That figure then rose to 1509 in June before experiencing slower growth between July and August from 1532 to 1545.

The number of EPs and EHs demonstrating and receiving EHR incentive payments for Stage 2 saw similarly limited growth despite CMS opening a short window during the summer to accommodate EHs and CAHs in their first year of participation.

As CMS notes in its most recent meaningful use data update, attestation for 2015 kicks off on Jan. 4, 2016 and runs through the end of February, which this year comprises 29 days.

It is unclear what changes the federal agency will need to make in order to accommodate the meaningful use attestation needs of both EPs and EHs that are more than likely playing the waiting game to see when the modifications to meaningful use between 2015 and 2017 (i.e., Stage 2) will be finalized.

Likewise hanging in the balance is the final rule for Stage 3 which remains under review by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) since the beginning of September and drawn scrutiny from members of the healthcare industry as well as members Congress, both the Senate and House of Representatives.

UPDATE: According to the CMS update during the HIT Policy Committee meeting, its meaningful use attestation system is closed to all eligible providers until January in anticipation of the the meaningful use modifications rule becoming final soon.





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