Stakeholders Welcome New MU Flexibility, But Worry About Timing


A proposed rule published Tuesday by CMS and the ONC would give providers more flexibility in attesting to meaningful use during the 2014 reporting period.

Under the modified attestation schedule, providers that were not able to fully implement 2014 Edition certified EHR technology in time to successfully attest to meaningful use would be able to use 2011 Edition CEHRT or a combination of 2011 and 2014 Edition to attest to either stage 1 or stage 2. Providers would also be able to attest to meaningful use under the 2013 reporting year definition and use 2013's clinical quality measures.

"Increasing the adoption of EHRs is key to improving the nation's healthcare system and the steps we are taking today will give new options to those who, through no fault of their own, have been unable to get the new 2014 Edition technology, including those at high risk, such as smaller providers and rural hospitals," said Karen DeSalvo, MD, the national coordinator for health IT, in a statement.  

Many industry organizations had called on CMS and ONC to increase the flexibility of the meaningful use program, calls that increased after CMS announced just four hospitals had attested to stage 2 during the first half of the 2014 reporting period. Concerns about vendor readiness and delays in the delivery of 2014 Edition CEHRT were often cited as significant barriers to successful attestation.

To those groups, this new rule is seen as a welcomed and needed adjustment.

"If the government acts quickly to finalize the proposed rule, it will provide the flexibility needed for our members and their organizations to adequately optimize newly deployed technology and ensure success of the program," said Russell P. Branzell, president and CEO of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, in a statement.

"This was needed some time ago," says Mark Odom, CIO of St. Bernards Healthcare in Jonesboro, Ark. St. Bernards, facing vendor delays for 2014 Edition technology, engaged third-party vendors to help the health system meet the requirements, which could now seem like money wasted, he says.

"But at the time we couldn't count on [a delay]," he says, noting he and other healthcare CIOs still can't count on it — the ability of providers to take advantage of the new flexibility will depend on CMS' ability to implement the proposed rule in time for it to be of use to providers. The public comment period on the proposed rule is 60 days and the final meaningful use reporting period for 2014 begins July 1, meaning healthcare leaders may have to make a decision about attestation before they know for sure the fate of the proposed rule.

"We have to be done [with the three-month attestation period] by Oct. 1, and the comment period will last until July 20 — you see the problem," he says. "So we have to push forward [with stage 2], if only to find out we didn't need to…we can't afford not to attest."

More Articles on Meaningful Use:

What's Next for RECs: 6 Statistics
MU Attestation Not Associated With Care Quality, According to Brigham and Women's Hospital Study
IOM Recommends EHR Data Domains for MU3


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