CMS Issues Stage 3 Meaningful Use Guidelines

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) on Tuesday released final rules for stage 3 of the “meaningful use” EHR Incentive Program, as well as the final rule for the 2015 Edition Health IT Certification Criteria. Accompanying the rules is a 60-day public comment period to gather stakeholder feedback about the EHR Incentive Program going forward.

The rules specify the requirements that eligible professionals (EPs), eligible hospitals, and critical access hospitals (CAHs) must meet in order to qualify for stage 3 meaningful use incentive payments and avoid downward payment adjustments under the Medicare EHR Incentive Program. In addition, it changes the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs reporting period in 2015 to a 90-day period aligned with the calendar year—reduced from the previous 12 month reporting period.

The reduction in the reporting period was not the only change CMS made to make the meaningful use program easier to meet—something some providers have been calling for in recent months. Additionally, CMS said it has responded to requests from meaningful use attesters to reduce the burden of duplicative reporting, including reporting on measures that are irrelevant to their specialty.

CMS lowered “the number of objectives from 20 to less than 10 and provided flexibility so that providers may choose measures that are most relevant to their practice. We also aligned certain aspects of the reporting of clinical quality measures with other CMS Medicare quality reporting programs, enabling providers to report once and receive credit for multiple programs,” a CMS fact sheet states.

Additionally, in order to allow providers more time to implement changes to program requirements, CMS is allowing 90 day reporting for all providers in 2015, extending the 90 day reporting period to new providers in 2016 and 2017, and to anyone choosing to adopt the 2018 measures a year early. The stage 3 requirements will go into effect in 2018, though providers can move into the stage before that time.

The rules also respond to calls for a hardship exemption for providers that find themselves in need of a new EHR vendor in order to meet meaningful use requirements.

Click here to read the full text of the stage 3 rule, and here for the full text of the 2015 Edition Health IT Certification Criteria.

Mary Butler is the associate editor at The Journal of AHIMA.

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