Draft regulations the CMS issued last Friday would add a third and final stage to the federal incentive program that requires doctors and hospitals to adopt and meaningfully use electronic health records.
Hospitals, physicians and other eligible professionals, with some exceptions, would be expected to conform to the rules by 2018. The rules also would promise significant changes to requirements for providers and hospitals.
The CMS believes that upgrade costs will be $54,000 per eligible physician, and annual maintenance will cost $10,000—at the high end of a 2008 Congressional Budget Office estimate. For hospitals, the agency estimates a $5 million cost to upgrade and $1 million for annual maintenance.
Providers that fail to meet requirements between 2018 and 2020 will pay $500 million in Medicare penalties, the agency estimated.
The proposal apparently overhauls the required reporting period to demonstrate compliance, returning to a one yearlong standard rather than 90 days.
That change raised concerns with the American College of Cardiology, whose president, Dr. Kim Allan Williams, said, “The college is concerned by the proposal to require all providers, even first-time participants, to report for a full calendar year.”
Separate regulations proposed by HHS' Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology would overhaul the certification program for healthcare IT, which is intended to give healthcare providers certainty that the software they buy can perform the functions required under the meaningful-use program.
Previously, the certification program primarily tested software that was meant to be used with the EHR incentive program. Now, however, it can support “various care and practice settings,” according to the proposed rule.