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CMS and ONC adjust meaningful use reporting rules

Some meaningful use reporting requirements were modified by CMS and ONC. Notably, the stage 3 attestation period will be optional in 2017 and last for 90 days that year.

Healthcare IT professionals eagerly anticipated changes to health IT certification processes and meaningful use reporting requirements to see if CMS heard and accommodated some of their previous feedback and comments.

That wait ended on Oct. 6, when CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) publicly released updates to Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Records Incentive Programs. As many interested parties continue to review the full extent of the rule changes, CMS' press release strongly suggested it tried to reduce the burden of meaningful use attestation and reporting, while still pushing for improved interoperability and better patient outcomes.

CMS and ONC provided the following list of adjustments, which exemplify its push for simplicity and greater meaningful use reporting flexibility.

  • Using health IT tools shouldn't be a goal; they should be deployed as a way to improve patient care.
  • Allow providers some flexibility to select which meaningful use measures are most relevant to their practice and report on the progress of those measures.
  • Allow state Medicaid agencies and providers until Jan. 1, 2018, to meet these new requirements.
  • Permit technology developers more time to manufacture new technology that will be easier to use and give consumers greater access to their health data.
  • Support provider-to-provider and provider-to-patient exchange of health information, and help foster a more interoperable healthcare infrastructure.
  • Address information blocking and allow for more interoperability between providers.

Another key alteration that is likely to please many healthcare providers is the reduction in required criteria for eligible physicians, as well as eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals. From 2015 to 2017, the EHR Incentive Programs will demand only 10 objectives of eligible physicians -- a reduction from the previous total of 18. Eligible and critical access hospitals will only be required to meet nine objectives, down from the previous mark of 20. There were also changes made to final installment of the program, meaningful use stage 3.

One item of relief physicians will get is that attesting to meaningful use stage 3 will be optional in 2017. Those that choose to begin stage 3 that year will only have a 90-day meaningful use reporting period. All eligible providers will have to comply with stage 3 beginning in 2018, using an EHR system that meets 2015 Edition Certified EHR requirements.

While many people in the healthcare industry are excited to see the reduction in core requirements for physicians and hospitals, there are concerns that some of the requirements are still unattainable for some providers. Most healthcare executives are waiting to fully digest the lengthy document before deciding where they stand on the rule changes.

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 [email protected] or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

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