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CMS final rule relaxes 2014 CEHRT standards

Feedback from providers prompted CMS and ONC to cut them a break in meeting 2014 EHR certification standards.

On Sept. 4, 2014 the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final rule that includes several changes to meaningful use reporting, as well as certified electronic health records technology definitions and other standards.

Many of the alterations provide flexibility around compliance with some of the 2014 Edition certified electronic health record technology (CEHRT) standards. This may help providers that face challenges with their vendors, while others view it as a "free pass" for providers waiting until the last minute to certify.

Quite a few physicians have been concerned with some EHR vendors' lack of readiness for the 2014 CEHRT standards. Not meeting the 2014 Edition certification requirements likely means that providers that deploy their technology won't qualify for incentive payments.  Of the vendors unprepared for 2014 certified EHR standards, some say their efforts have been delayed by forces outside of their control, while others feel that they have further testing to perform to ensure their products are compliant. An announcement of the final rule stated that the agencies governing CEHRT, ONC and CMS "sought to be responsive to stakeholder concerns by proposing options for providers who were unable to fully implement 2014 Edition CEHRT for an EHR reporting period in 2014 because of issues related to 2014 Edition CEHRT availability delays."

Physicians faced with a lack of availability of 2014 CERHT, are now given the option to use a combination of the 2011 and 2014 Edition CEHRT to attest to meaningful use stage 1 measures in 2014. This newfound flexibility won't necessarily create an easy path to success for providers that previously viewed meeting the 2014 Edition CEHRT as a costly and challenging endeavor. The final rule specifies providers that failed to implement 2014 Edition CEHRT because of financial restraints would not be allowed to use both 2011 and 2014 CEHRT options for the 2014 EHR reporting period.

The ruling explained that there likely will be audits to evaluate physicians, to ensure their delayed use of 2014 Edition CEHRT was caused by vendor delays. "We stress the delay in 2014 Edition CEHRT availability must be attributable to the issues related to software development, certification, implementation, testing, or release of the product by the EHR vendor," the rule outlined.

The changes do provide some flexibility in areas that concerned many physicians, which were outlined  in the feedback collected by CMS during the public comment period. While the changes may not address all the challenges that physicians face in meeting the meaningful use stages 1 and 2, they offer some relief  to organizations that have endured bugs and implementation issues while striving to achieve compliance with 2014 CEHRT standards.

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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