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Will meaningful use rules leave rural doctors vulnerable?

On the final day of the comment period for federal meaningful use rules regarding electronic health record (EHR) technology, a group of more than 90 federal and state medical societies wrote to the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), asking for relaxed meaningful use rules.

Such a request is not necessarily surprising, and we’ve written about the desire for “partial credit” meaningful use before. But this particular plea suggests that doctors in small, rural practices, bereft of resources, will be especially vulnerable to the “aggressive timeline” established by CMS.

In their letter, the societies ask CMS to consider awarding financial incentives once five meaningful use criteria have been awarded; that, they surmise, would give small practices a better chance of achieving meaningful use. The group also wants a reduction in the number of clinical quality measures on which practices are expected to report.

All in all, CMS received more than 2,000 comments about meaningful use and expects to issue a final set of rules later this spring. The agency says most folks accept and understand the approach that CMS is taking but think the timeline needs an extension. We’ll have to wait and see if that makes it into the final rule.

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