CMS drops final EHR meaningful use rule

Stage 3 gets greenlight, 90-day reporting period approved
By Erin McCann
05:18 PM
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U.S. Capitol

It's final. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and ONC have released final rules for the EHR Incentive Programs, which they say will ease reporting requirements for providers and allow for 90-day reporting periods. They also announced major news on Stage 3 of the program. 

The 2015 rule builds on 2011 and 2014 and is reflective of input from industry stakeholders, according to Karen DeSalvo, MD, national coordinator for health IT and acting assistant secretary for Health at HHS.

The final rules, as CMS and ONC officials announced late Tuesday, "make significant changes in current requirements." Chief among them are easing the reporting requirements for providers, said Patrick Conway, MD, of CMS, in a media call Tuesday afternoon. The rules also allow for a 90-day reporting period for providers in 2015, and new providers in 2016 and 2017. 

There were also big changes to the number of objectives for eligible hospitals, which have been reduced from about 20 in prior stages to eight. 

Clinical quality measures for both hospitals and providers will remain the same.

[Related: How happy are you with your EHR? View our 2015 Satisfaction Survey results.]

Stage 3, CMS officials also announced, will go on as planned and will not be delayed, but they will extend the public comment period for Stage 3.

After receiving some 2,500 comments from industry stakeholders on the two proposed rules, CMS made some big changes to the regulations:

  • Give providers and state Medicaid agencies 27 months, until Jan. 1, 2018, to comply with the new requirements and prepare for the next set of system improvements.
  • Give developers more time to create the next advancements in technology that CMS says will be easier to use and more appropriate to new models of care and access to data by consumers.
  • Support provider exchange of health information and interoperable infrastructure for data exchange between providers and with patients.
  • Give developers additional time to create the next advancements in technology that will be easier to use and more appropriate to new models of care and access to data by consumers.
  • Address health information blocking and interoperability between providers.

Stage 3 major provisions

In 2017, Stage 3 requirements are optional, but providers who opt to start Stage 3 that year will have a 90-day reporting period. Come 2018, all providers must comply with Stage 3 regulations using a certified EHR. 

According to a CMS fact sheet detailing the final rules, major provisions pertaining to Stage 3 meaningful use include:

  • 8 objectives for eligible docs, eligible hospitals and CAHs: In Stage 3, more than 60 percent of the proposed measures require interoperability, up from 33 percent in Stage 2.
  • Public health reporting with flexible options for measure selection.
  • CQM reporting aligned with the CMS quality reporting programs.
  • Finalize the use of application program interfaces that enable the development of new functionalities to build bridges across systems.

Access the final rules here

Healthcare IT News' Tom Sullivan contributed to this story. 

Related articles: 

ONC posts final interoperability roadmap  

GAO's 5 roadblocks to interoperability 

Where are we headed, post-HITECH?