New CMS-Published Rule on Meaningful Use Provides Flexibility for Healthcare Professionals: Implications for 2014 and Beyond

Good news! Healthcare professionals have more flexibility in achieving Meaningful Use based on the rule recently published by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

With the race to adopt meaningful use technology, both vendors and providers have been concerned about their ability to meet timelines.

In May of this year, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a proposed rule that would change aspects of the timeline and how the requirements for the federal incentive program, known as Meaningful Use (MU), are met. The incentive program provides doctors and hospitals with stimulus funding to install electronic health records (EHR) systems giving healthcare professionals the motivation to implement this capability in their practices. However, many healthcare providers and hospitals have been struggling to acquire these EHR systems citing the unavailability of technology resulting from late certification and high demand.

Last Friday, CMS announced the final rule that remained unchanged from the May proposal. The most time-sensitive part of the rule gives more flexibility to eligible professionals and hospitals meeting the MU requirements.

The flexibility in the final rule allows healthcare providers to:

  • Repeat 2013 attestation (use 2011-certified EHR vendors to attest for 2013 Stage 1 objectives);
  • Attest for 2014 Stage 1 measures using a mix of 2011 and 2014 certification technology; or
  • Attest for 2014 Stage 2 measures if the provider is ready

Additionally, the rule stipulates that Stage 2 of the MU incentive program will be extended through 2016 for certain providers and Stage 3 will begin in 2017 for providers who already implemented the MU requirements of electronic health records in 2011 or 2012. The previous standard was Jan. 1, 2016.

CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner stated: “We listened to stakeholder feedback and provided CEHRT flexibility for 2014 to help ensure providers can continue to participate in the EHR Incentive Programs forward. We were excited to see that there is overwhelming support for this change.”

But the rule isn’t universally popular among stakeholders. Some feel the rule penalizes providers who met the original schedule; others are concerned that continued delays only push off the date when healthcare is truly engaged.

Navigating Cancer is Here to Help!  

Navigating Cancer is certified with the ONC HIT 2014 Edition Modular EHR Certification credentials.

For Attestation in 2014

We recommend that if healthcare providers have upgraded their electronic medical record (EMR) system to a Stage 2 edition and were planning to attest this year, they continue down that path.

If providers haven’t yet upgraded their EMR to a 2014-certified version, we recommend they take advantage of the new ruling and repeat their Stage 1 2013 attestation from last year or use a mix of Stage 1 and Stage 2 criteria. Although Navigating Cancer is 2014-certified for the measures you’d expect from a patient portal, such as clinical summaries and electronic access, clinics will still need a 2014-certified EMR to attest for 2014 measures and objectives.

Start Getting Ready for 2015

We highly recommend that healthcare providers start preparing for 2015 now:

  • Providers must use ONLY 2014-certified EMRs to attest next year
  • The attestation period is 365 days (not 90 days as it is in 2014).

To this end, we recommend that providers:

  • Capture emails and drive portal registrations;
  • Turn on secure messaging; and
  • Get on their EMR’s upgrade schedule, if they haven’t already

Regardless of the situation, the new rule provides healthcare providers with flexibility. If we can help clarify the ruling or help you establish your plan, please contact Navigating Cancer here.

This topic and the ever-changing rules can be confusing. Navigating Cancer provides the following update to help clarify the new rule:

Meaningful Use Update from Navigating Cancer (used in an internal company update)

Key references:

Stay in the Know

Subscribe to the Navigating Cancer blog for the latest news, innovations, and best practices in oncology care.