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Back to 90 days: The big Meaningful Use announcement

The Announcement:

Healthcare providers across the country breathed a collective sigh of relief when The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced its plan to implement a new rule which would shorten the 2015 Meaningful Use reporting period from 365 to just 90 days.

The federal agency’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Patrick Conway, M.D. made this announcement via a blog post on January 29.

“The new rule, expected this spring, would be intended to be responsive to provider concerns about software implementation, information exchange readiness, and other related concerns in 2015,” he said, adding that “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.”

Meaningful-Use  CureMD

The list of proposals being considered by CMS:

  • Realigning hospital EHR reporting periods to the calendar year. Consequently, eligible hospitals will have much-needed time to conveniently amalgamate the 2014-Edition software with their workflows. They would also be assisted in adapting to other quality programs which have similar requirements.
  • Adjust other MU specifics so that they are aligned with the long-term goals of the program, and to decrease the complexity and reporting burden faced by providers.
  • Shortening the 365-day reporting period for EHRs in 2015 would aide in accommodating these changes.

The distinction:

However, it is pertinent to mention that the forthcoming proposed rule for MU Stage 3 is unrelated to this announcement; and will go on as planned. The proposal for Stage 3 will be applicable for the Meaningful Use of EHRs from 2017 onwards.

The history:

Many stakeholders in the health care industry had united in opposition of the 365-day MU reporting period for 2015.  The pressure groups were able to persuade several members of the Congress to push for legislation to reduce the reporting period to 90 days.

In response to the final rule published by CMS and the Office of National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) last August, Congresswoman Renee Elmers drafted the Flex-IT bill in the September of 2014.

The aim of this legislation was for providers to continue 90-day EHR reporting for receiving Meaningful Use incentive payments. However, the last legislative session came to an end before anything significant could materialize.

The bill was re-introduced on January 12, 2015, and College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, and other large healthcare groups supported its reintroduction.

The reasons:

Pressure to reduce the reporting period had been piling on the CMS for quite some time. More and more care providers and stakeholders were uniting to see this done, stating that the requirements were too stringent to be met.

As mentioned above, this pushed for the matter to be debated in Congress. Additionally, when the stats for Meaningful Use of EHRs came out, the adoption rates for Stage 2 were significantly lower than those of Stage 1.

My views are that the CMS must have already been under immense pressure, and looking to amend the rule, when Congresswoman Elemers reintroduced the bill in Congress. This seems to be the icing on the cake, and could have prompted CMS to finally make the crucial decision.