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Proposed Stage 3 Meaningful Use Rules

On Friday March 20, 2015, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS“) announced the release of the new Stage 3 meaningful use proposed rules. Concurrently, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (“ONC”) released its new EHR certification requirements, which are linked to its previously released interoperability roadmap. CMS says that the new rules “will give providers additional flexibility, make the program simpler, and drive interoperability among electronic health records, and increase the focus on patient outcomes to improve care.”

With the announcement of the new rules came the release of the two proposals: one outlining the Stage 3 meaningful use requirements for hospitals and providers and one outlining the new EHR certification requirements. The proposed Stage 3 meaningful use rule is intended to specify the meaningful use criteria that eligible professionals, eligible hospitals, and critical access hospitals must meet in order to qualify for Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive payments and avoid downward adjustments under Medicare for Stage 3 of the EHR incentive program. According to the summary of the proposed rule, it would continue to encourage submission of clinical quality measure (“CQM”) data for all providers where feasible in 2017, propose to require the electronic submission of CQMs where feasible in 2018, and establish requirements to transition the program to a single stage for meaningful use. Also, the Stage 3 proposed rule, according to CMS, would change the EHR reporting period so that all providers would report under a full calendar year timeline with a limited exception under the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program for providers demonstrating meaningful use for the first time.

In the proposed rule regarding EHR certification requirements, CMS introduces a new edition of certification criteria, proposes a new 2015 Edition Base EHR definition, and proposes to modify the ONC Health IT Certification Program “to make it open and accessible to more types of health IT and health IT that supports various care and practice settings.” It would also establish the capabilities and specify the related standards and implementation specifications that Certified EHR Technology (“CEHRT”) would need to include to, at a minimum, support the achievement of meaningful use by eligible professionals, eligible hospitals, and critical access hospitals under the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs when such edition is required for use under these programs.

The Department of Health & Human Services (“HHS“) Secretary, Sylvia Burwell, stated that, “[t]he steps we are taking today will help to create more transparency on cost and quality information, bring electronic health information to inform care and decision making, and support population health.”

CMS will make additional changes to the meaningful use rules in 2015 that will include instituting a shorter reporting period: moving from the current one year period down to ninety days. Patrick Conway, the acting principal deputy administrator and chief medical officer at CMS, confirmed this notion, stating that, “in an effort to make reporting easier for health care providers, we will be proposing a new meaningful use reporting deadline soon.”
CMS is seeking comments on the proposed Stage 3 meaningful use rules and on the new EHR certification requirements until May 29, 2015.

Wachler & Associates will continue to monitor CMS rule making and guidance related to EHR meaningful use criteria, as well as other breaking healthcare news. Subscribe to our health law blog to stay up to date on the latest CMS rule making and guidance. If you need help understanding the meaningful use requirements or assistance with negotiating EHR contracts, please contact an experienced healthcare attorney at 248-544-0888 or email at wapc@wachler.com.