CMS Gives Providers A Meaningful Break from “Meaningful Use”

by Leonardo M. Tamburello

On May 20, 2014, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published and requested comment on a new proposed rule that would provide eligible providers more flexibility in how they use electronic health records (EHR) systems to meet Meaningful Use (MU) requirements.  These proposed regulations would permit the use of 2011-certified EHRs, or a combination of 2011- and 2014-certified EHR technology for the 2014 reporting period for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs.

The proposed regulations would also require eligible providers in 2015 to report MU using 2014-certified EHR technology, but they also leave the door ajar for additional deferments, saying:  “We will maintain the existing policy that all providers must use 2014 Edition CEHRT for the EHR reporting periods in 2015, and in subsequent years or until new certification requirements are adopted in subsequent rulemaking.”

In addition, the proposed rule would formally extend Stage 2 MU through 2016, and defer Stage 3 until 2017, as had been previously stated.  The proposed changes to the MU timeline are as follows:

First
Payment Year
                                            Stage   of Meaningful Use
2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
2011 1 1 1 2 2 3   -> 2 3 TBD
2012 1 1 2 2 3   -> 2 3 TBD
2013 1 1 2 2 3 3
2014 1 1 2 2 3
2015 1 1 2 2
2016 1 1 2
2017 1 1
Current   Stage 2 Start Date
Proposed Stage 3 Start Date

While over five times as many non-federal acute care hospitals now possess “basic EHR” systems compared to 2008, alarmingly few had adopted all sixteen Stage 2 Core Functionalities.   In fact, according to data reported in May 2014 by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), only 6 percent of all eligible providers met all criteria for Stage 2 MU.

These proposed regulations provide welcome, albeit temporary, relief to providers concerned with meeting Stage 2 and Stage 3 MU which had been scheduled for 2014 and 2016, respectively.  Providers should use this opportunity to shore up any shortcomings in their Stage 1 or Stage 2 MU compliance and begin preparing for Stage 3 requirements which go into effect in 2017.