Meaningful use final rule to see 'minor revisions'

By Mary Mosquera
04:45 PM

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services plans to correct a few inconsistencies in the meaningful use final rule it published in July and will post on its web site more detailed guidance for providers on how to meet quality measures required by the health IT incentive program.

The minor revisions, including more detailed descriptions of each of the meaningful use objectives and measures, "should help clarify issues and help the (Health IT Policy Committee) plan for recommendations for future stages," said Tony Trenkle, director of CMS's Office of e-Health Standards and Services.

Trenkle, who spoke at a Sept. 22 meeting of the policy committee's meaningful use workgroup, did not offer further information on the clarifications. They would be released "shortly," he said.

The panel met to propose preliminary requirements for the second stage of meaningful use in 2013, such as raising the level of performance required for computerized physician orders, electronic prescribing and other measures that were begun in the first stage.

In doing so, Paul Tang, chairman of the meaningful use work group, reminded the panel of its main goal: to move clinical practices operating without EHRs into the digital age.

"We want to pay particular attention to smaller practices and hospitals," said Tang, who is also chief medical information officer of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. "We want to raise the tides but not sink the boats."
To set preliminary requirements for stage 2 in 2013, the panel is taking a 'backfilling' approach by splitting the difference between existing stage 1 requirements and where it wants to end up by 2015 for stage 3 of meaningful use.

For example, to set the stage 2 requirement that physicians should use e-prescribing for 60 percent of their prescriptions in 2013, it picked the midpoint between the current stage 1 requirement of 30 percent and the stage 3 goal that 90 percent of prescriptions should be ordered electronically.

Compared with the first set of meaningful use requirements, stage 2 should also incorporate more standard and coded data from EHRs, which should reduce the reporting burden on providers. "We hope that they are capturing the information as part of patient care and not a separate activity," Tang said.

Staking out new ground, the group introduced objectives for a glide path to care coordination, starting with a measure that calls for providers to link members of their care teams electronically with at least 20 percent of their patients.

The work group will present its preliminary recommendations on stage 2 meaningful use measure in October. In December, the panel will put out a request for comments on the proposals.

In April, the panel will be able to get indications of the number of providers reporting stage one measures and a sense of the market, Tang said. The policy committee wants to make final recommendations by April to give vendors sufficient time to add functionality to EHRs.