HHS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology have submitted them to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the federal Office of Management and Budget.
That agency assesses the economic impact of important draft regulations and guidance, and it can change or delay rules in certain circumstances. Descriptions of the proposed rules provide a glimpse into what their final content may be.
The proposed rule for the third stage of the meaningful-use program, for example, says that there will be “changes to the reporting period, timelines and structure of the program … These changes will provide a flexible, yet, clearer framework to ensure future sustainability of the EHR program and to reduce confusion stemming from multiple stage requirements.”
Stakeholders, such as the American Medical Association and the College of Health Information Management Executives, have contended that the EHR incentive program's requirements are too inflexible and punishing. Critiques of the program have reached the congressional level, where interest has surfaced in changing the reporting periods used to attest to meaningful use to be more favorable for providers.
It's not certain, but those lines in the description of the rule may indicate HHS and ONC have come to agree with those stakeholders.
Skepticism about the benefits of the EHR incentive program also exist. According to the agency's arguments, HHS anticipates benefits will accrue “in the form of savings to Medicare through the Medicare payment adjustments.”
The other benefits, the agency concedes, are qualitative. They include “improved quality of care and better health outcomes.”
“We believe that savings will likely result from reductions in the cost of providing care,” the document concludes.
Follow Darius Tahir on Twitter: @dariustahir