Here's my analysis of the key changes in the Final Rule:
1. HHS has adopted the HIT Policy Committee recommendation to frame Meaningful Use as core requirements and discretionary requirements. In so doing, they have reduced the total number of requirements and introduced choice.
In the NPRM there were 25 requirements for Eligible Professionals and 23 for hospitals.
In the Final Rule there are 15 core requirements for Eligible Professionals and 14 for hospitals.
There are 10 discretionary requirements from which 5 must be chosen.
2. Thresholds have been reduced in many cases. For example, CPOE had a threshold of 80% of orders for Eligible Professionals and 10% of orders for hospitals. The language in the final rule focuses on order entry of medications and requires that 30% of patients with medication orders to have at least 1 medication order entered electronically. This requirement applies to both Eligible Professionals and Hospitals.
3. Administrative Simplification has been postponed to Stage 2.
4. Decision Support rules changed from 5 to 1
5. Required Clinical quality measures have been reduced to 6 for professionals and 15 for hospitals. For professionals, there are 3 core measures required, 3 alternative core measures, and a choice of 3 from a pool of discretionary measures. Reporting by attestation is required in 2011, electronic reporting is required in 2012. Clinical quality measurements for specialists have been eliminated for stage 1. There has been great effort to align meaningful use with PQRI measures.
6. The NPRM did not include the recording of advanced directives or a provision for providing patients with educational materials. The final rule includes these as discretionary meaningful use requirements.
Overall this final rule maintains a balance between the policy objectives sought and the technology changes possible that are achievable now. There will still be 3 stages of meaningful use and later stages will be more demanding. All the original stage 1 requirements will still be part of meaningful use by stage 2.
In January of 2011, the clinicians may begin the 90 day process of using a certified record per meaningful use requirements. Attestation of this use begins in April 2011. CMS payments will begin May 2011.
ONC also released the final rule on Standards and Certification today. They have done a remarkable job adding detailed implementation guidance specificity for patient care summaries, public health laboratory reporting, syndromic surveillance, and immunizations. It's a tricky balance to ensure there is enough specificity to test and certify EHRs and modules for interoperability while at the same time encouraging innovation. The final rule issued today achieves that balance perfectly, ensuring that only mature implementation guides are specified, leaving room for innovation in such as areas as how to transport data from point to point via NHIN Direct and other demonstration projects.
Overall, a very good day for ONC, HHS and stakeholders. The final rule means Meaningful Use will be achievable by many. The Standards and the process to certify their use are sufficiently specific. I'm impressed.
John Halamka, MD, blogs regularly at Life as a Healthcare CIO.