CMS Proposal Would Allow Providers And Physicians To Remain In Stage 1 Of The EHR Meaningful Use Program For An Extra Year

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On Friday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health IT officially published a proposed rule in the Federal Register that would give health care providers slated to comply with Stage 2 of the HITECH Act’s EHR meaningful use provisions an extra year to remain in Stage 1. Practically speaking, that means that hundreds of hospitals, physicians, and other provider groups will be allowed to continue using 2011 Edition Certified Electronic Health Record Technology (CEHRT) – or a hybrid of 2011 and 2014 Edition software – until 2015 rather than having to fully upgrade to 2014 Edition software in FY 2014.

CMS and ONC cited concerns from the incentive program’s stakeholders as the primary reason for the proposed delay. “We understand, based on information gained from EHR technology developers and ONC-Authorized Certification Bodies on timing, backlogs, and the certification case load, many EHR products were certified later than anticipated, which has impacted the corresponding time available to providers—especially hospitals—to effectively deploy 2014 Edition CEHRT and to make the necessary patient safety, staff training, and workflow investments in order to be prepared to demonstrate meaningful use in 2014,” wrote federal regulators.

While the delay was long sought by providers and physician groups, some in the industry greeted the proposed regulation with muted enthusiasm, concerned that the timing of the proposal and comment period would leave providers little time to make adjustments to their CEHRT once the rule was finalized. As California Healthline noted, College of Healthcare Information Management Executives President and CEO Russell Branzell and Vice President of government relations for the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Tom Leary both emphasized the urgency of finalizing the proposed rule as quickly as possible.

By: Sy Mukherjee