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CMS proposed certified EHR technology rule: What's next?

Those eligible for the EHR Incentive Programs will be able to use 2011 Certified EHR standards as their guide this year if a CMS proposal sticks.

Just as providers were adjusting to the new meaningful use stage 2 deadline, another EHR-related regulation hit the airwaves. Physicians and hospitals eligible for the EHR Incentive Programs will be able to use either 2011 Edition certified EHR technology, the 2014 Edition or a combination of the two for the 2014 reporting period, if the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services proposal sticks as proposed.

With the one-year extension to meaningful use stage 2, CMS has allowed providers more time to work with vendors to adopt the latest certified EHR products. This extension gives eligible physicians and hospitals more time to better prepare for the next stage of meaningful use.

For the practices and hospitals who have been diligently preparing, the stage 2 delay may not be necessary. Interpreting CMS explanations, the alterations to both meaningful use and the certified EHR technology reporting are linked. Their actions were a response to the challenges several healthcare organizations have faced because their EHR vendors hit snags in the certification process. Many providers were waiting on vendors to upgrade their products in order for eligible physicians and hospitals to meet meaningful use requirements.

In the CMS official release, National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo, M.D., shared the motivation behind updating the EHR certification criteria. "Increasing the adoption of EHRs is key to improving the nation's health care system and the steps we are taking today will give new options to those who, through no fault of their own, have been unable to get the new 2014 Edition technology, including those at high risk, such as smaller providers and rural hospitals."

These delays will also provide more time and opportunity for providers to develop their own or latch on to existing health information exchanges (HIEs). HIEs are a critical component of meaningful use stage 2 and 3, and ensuring they are up and operational will help physicians share health information across health systems.

The proposed rule would not only affect how providers will prepare for the next two stages of meaningful use, it also changes the requirements for clinical quality measures for 2014. Resource management for most healthcare professionals will undergo some adjustments in the next few years as providers cope with the sudden changes to ICD-10 and meaningful use stage 2.

About the author:
Reda Chouffani is vice president of development at Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the healthcare industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

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