CMS: No MU2 Delay, But Flexibility in Hardship Exemptions

Meaningful use stage 2 will proceed as scheduled, but there will be some flexibility in hardship exemptions granted to providers struggling with the looming deadline for 2014 attestation, CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner told attendees today at HIMSS' annual conference in Orlando.

The flexibility is designed to "support those on their MU journey" while keeping CMS' clinical programs on track, tweeted Deputy National Coordinator for Health IT Judy Murphy during Ms. Tavenner's presentation at the conference.

The 2014 meaningful use timeline has created frustration among providers and the organizations that represent them, as the 2014 Editions of many vendors' products were delayed, and providers have many other competing priorities this year, including the ICD-10 transition.

"There are so many things happening at once," said Russ Branzell, CEO of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, prior to Ms. Tavenner's announcement. "We're hoping to hear some encouragement, or just some understanding…We want some flexibility to spread out the initiatives to where we can do them appropriately. We're not going to stop doing any of them, just sequence the resources in such a way that they can appropriately get them done, and get the outcomes needed in these initiatives."

It's a position CHIME, along with the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association and 46 other healthcare organizations, expressed in a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius urging HHS to provide flexibility in the meaningful use attestation timeline, especially for this year.

The concerns stem from not only the daunting number of IT tasks facing providers, but the relatively small number of EHRs that have received 2014 Edition certification. "It is clear the pace and scope of change have outstripped the ability of vendors to support providers. This inhibits the ability of providers to manage the transition to the 2014 Edition CEHRT and stage 2 in a safe and orderly manner," according to the letter.

Mr. Branzell and CHIME are therefore encouraged by the announcement's promise of flexibility. "CHIME welcomes [CMS' announcement] acknowledging the need to provide relief for our nation's providers," according to a joint statement from Mr. Branzell and CHIME Board Chairman Randy McCleese. "Such relief is vitally important for the future success of meaningful use, as ICD-10 deadlines and continued shifts in payment policies demand an ever-increasing amount of IT and workforce resources."

However, the CHIME statement reserves some of its praise pending more information about the extent of the promised flexibility. "Should CMS choose to define the new hardship exceptions in a way that does not address the core concerns of our industry we will continue to seek the kind of flexibility that nearly 50 national healthcare organizations communicated to HHS Secretary Sebelius Feb. 21," according to the statement.

More Articles on Meaningful Use:

CIOs' Top 7 IT Priorities
Half of Hospitals to Make New EHR Purchase by 2016
Top EHR Vendors by Meaningful Use Attestations

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