In the upcoming proposed rule that will likely outline meaningful use stage 2 criteria, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it would also include a delay in compliance deadlines for physicians and hospitals chasing EHR incentive program checks.
Providers attesting to stage 1 meaningful use in 2011 and 2012 will have to start complying with stage 2 requirements in 2014 — at least that will be in the upcoming proposal due in February 2012 according to an email CMS sent Wednesday to stakeholders in the EHR incentive program. Under the current trajectory, some providers in the Medicare EHR incentive program would be subject to stage 2 compliance as early as October 2012, depending on when they attested to stage 1.
The extension does not affect Medicaid EHR incentive program participants, as they did not have to attest to meeting stage 2 requirements until 2014 under present rules.
The change will, CMS hopes, get more physicians to adopt EHRs earlier and to attest this year. It will also provide relief to software vendors, who under the current path would have only a few months to update their applications and get ONC certified for meaningful use — a process that, itself can take months — between when CMS would announce the stage 2 criteria and when physicians would have to begin attestation.
“We hope that this will give vendors added time to develop certified EHR technologies for stage 2,” CMS stated, “as well as give providers additional time to implement new software and meet the new requirements of stage 2.”
While the Health and Human Services Department did not spell it out as clearly as the CMS release, it did telegraph this move in an announcement last week, and there have been hints throughout the year that a delay in stage 2 criteria was coming. CMS said it had arrived at its decision after taking into consideration input from providers and vendors — presumably in committee meetings and public comments to proposed rules issued over the last two years.