CMS Announces Simplified Meaningful Use Requirements in Draft Rule

Federal health IT officials last week issued a proposed rule that would streamline and relax requirements some providers have found troublesome under the “meaningful use” Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program.

The proposed changes echo calls by the industry and legislators who’ve asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to shorten current reporting period timelines and ease measures proving that patients have interacted effectively with their own EHRs.

In its notice of proposed rulemaking, released April 10, CMS proposes:

  • Reducing the overall number of objectives to focus on advanced use of EHRs
  • Removing measures that have become redundant, duplicative, or have reached widespread adoption
  • Realigning the reporting period beginning in 2015, so hospitals would participate on the calendar year instead of the fiscal year
  • Allowing a 90 day reporting period in 2015 to accommodate the implementation of these proposed changes
Changes to the Meaningful Use Reporting Period

According to the draft rule, CMS is aligning the definition of an EHR reporting period with the calendar year for all providers beginning in 2015 and continuing onward, the rule states. Specifically, this proposal would change the EHR reporting period for eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals (CAHs) from a period based on the fiscal year to the calendar year beginning in 2015. This aligns with the provision outlined in the Stage 3 proposed rule to move all providers to an EHR reporting period of one full calendar year beginning in 2017 with a limited exception for Medicaid providers demonstrating meaningful use for the first time, the rule explains.


Loosening Patient Engagement Requirements

Another meaningful use requirement that has been burdensome for eligible providers has been the measure which requires them to demonstrate that five percent of EHR users have viewed, downloaded, or transmitted information contained in their patient portal.

Under the new proposed rule, eligible providers only need to prove that “equal to or greater than 1” patient has interacted with their record.

Many of these changes come after CMS announced in a blog post in January that it was considering changes that “would be intended to be responsive to provider concerns about software implementation, information exchange readiness, and other related concerns in 2015. It would also be intended to propose changes reflective of developments in the industry and progress toward program goals achieved since the program began in 2011.”

Click here to read the new draft rule, which has a 60 day comment period.

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

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