The CMS intends to give more flexibility to hospitals, office-based physicians and other healthcare providers to meet federal targets for the meaningful use of electronic health records, according to a proposed rule the agency issued late Friday.
Chief among the changes in the 210-page draft rule is a proposal to standardize the 2015 reporting period for the EHR incentive-payment program to 90 consecutive days of achieving meaningful-use criteria.
Under the current rules, some providers risk losing incentive payments or face Medicare reimbursement penalties if they fail to meet meaningful-use targets for a full calendar or fiscal year.
The agency also wants to change the reporting year for hospitals to the calendar year. Since the beginning of the program in late 2010, hospitals have been required to meet their meaningful-use targets in their fiscal year, while physicians and other eligible professionals were obliged to use the calendar year. This year, both groups would use the calendar year for their reporting period.
The CMS additionally plans to eliminate some requirements that have become routine and reduce some other demands. For example, in an effort to jump-start patient participation in the electronic exchange of their healthcare information, eligible providers are required under the meaningful-use requirement to have 5% of their patients use technology to electronically download, view and transmit their medical records. The proposed rule would reduce that requirement to having a single patient download, view and transmit his or her records.
The proposed changes are subject to a 60-day comment period. A final rule will be drafted after that and could be issued this summer.
This latest round of rulemaking mirrors a similar approach last spring when the CMS issued a proposed rule giving more flexibility in Stage 1 and Stage 2 requirements for the incentive payment program, an action that was followed in late August with a final rule.
“The 90-day reporting period was absolutely critical if we were to continue on the path to success” with the meaningful-use program said Robert Tennant, senior policy advisor with the Medical Group Management Association. “It's a very important step for the agency.”