CMS signals an ease to meaningful use reporting

Proposed 90-day reporting period
By Erin McCann
12:50 PM
doc and patient with computer

It's official. The federal government has announced its willingness to ease up on meaningful use reporting requirements for the EHR Incentive Programs. 

In efforts to "reduce the reporting burden" for eligible providers and hospitals, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has proposed a new rulemaking, expected spring 2015, that could shorten the 2015 MU reporting period to 90 days – something that many CIOs and health IT organizations have been strongly pushing for in recent months. 

[See also: Calls for Stage 2 changes grow louder.]

In addition to a 90-day reporting period, CMS also is considering the following changes to the Meaningful Use Program:

  • Realigning hospital reporting periods to the calendar year to allow eligible hospitals more time to incorporate 2014 Edition software into their workflows and to better align with other quality programs
  • Modifying other aspects of the programs to match long-term goals, reduce complexity and lessen providers' reporting burden 

The new rule "would be intended to be responsive to provider concerns about software implementation, information exchange readiness, and other related concerns in 2015," wrote Patrick Conway, MD, chief medical officer at CMS, in a Jan. 29 blog post announcing the agency's decision. "It would also be intended to propose changes reflective of developments in the industry and progress toward program goals achieved since the program began in 2011."

As Conway explained, the agency is currently working on "multiple tracks" meant to "realign the program" based on stakeholder input.

It's been a long time coming for industry groups who have expressed growing frustrations and challenges with the year-long reporting period requirement.

This past September, healthcare industry heavyweights including CHIME, HIMSS, MGMA, AHA and the AMA, co-signed a letter to CMS, urging the agency to address 2015 reporting period requirements. HHS should "provide for a shortened, 90-day EHR reporting period in 2015, which would give time for providers to continue their transition without having to drop out of the program," the groups wrote in the letter.  

"How about a 90 Day Attestation period for MU going forward. Let's trust our providers that they will make EHR use wonderful. WU!," tweeted Intermountain Healthcare CIO Marc Probst back in September. Probst is among the more outspoken industry officials pushing for a 90-day reporting period. 

Speaking before Capitol Hill last summer, Randy McCleese, CIO of St. Claire Regional Medical Center in rural Kentucky echoed Probst's sentiments. "We're at a point that the things that we're trying to do, it's pushing us over the edge to get to that point," he said. The one-year reporting period is going to require a "tremendous amount of effort and resources that we would prefer go to patient care," he explained before congressional staffers. 

Already, on the blogosphere at least, the reactions to CMS's announcement have been overwhelmingly positive: