Thursday, October 15, 2015

Meaningful Use program for 2015-2017 and implementing Stage 3

CMS Unveils Final Meaningful Use Rule
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology have issued the long-awaited final rules changing the requirements of the Meaningful Use program for 2015-2017 and implementing Stage 3 of the program.

The rules “shift the paradigm so health IT becomes a tool for care improvement, not an end in itself,” according to the October 6 announcement. The rule eases the reporting burdens, simplifies requirements, adds flexibility, supports interoperability and improves outcomes. It also transitions to a new and more responsive regulatory framework based on the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), which essentially moves physicians out of the Meaningful Use program into a new Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS).  
Some of the changes include:
        Providers and state Medicaid agencies will now have until Jan. 1, 2018, to prepare for and comply with the next set of system improvements;
        Stage 3 will now be optional in 2017;
        Stage 3 will have eight objectives, with more than 60 percent requiring interoperability;
        Public health reporting will have flexibility options;
        APIs will be required;
        Cybersecurity requirements have been strengthened; and
        The reporting period for 2015 will be only 90 days for all providers, for new providers in 2016 and 2017 and for any provider moving to Stage 3 of the program in 2017
HHS had received more than 2,500 comments on the proposed rules.
Addressing concerns that the rule is coming out too late for providers to report in 2015, Patrick Conway M.D., acting principal deputy administrator and chief medical officer at CMS, pointed out that the deadlines could be extended and that providers can apply for hardship exemptions.
The rules also do not delay Stage 3, although many stakeholders have been asking that Stage 3 be “paused” and reevaluated. Conway indicated in a media call that a 60-day comment period will “get us to a similar place.” He also pointed out that HHS had to combine the alteration and Stage 3 rules; using a comment period is just a different mechanism to do so.
CMS will accept comments on the EHR Incentive Programs final rule for 60 days after it appears in the Federal Register, which is expected on October 16. The feedback will help shape future EHR rulemaking and will also be considered as CMS works to develop rulemaking around MACRA, which was passed by Congress earlier this year to replace the sustainable growth rate. Additional information about MACRA is expected in spring 2016.
A fact sheet on the new rule can be found here on the CMS website.

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