The CMS is making it easier for providers to waive out meaningful use requirements of electronic health records amid a series of proposed changes to the 6-year-old $31.8 billion EHR incentive payment program.
In December, President Barack Obama signed the Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act, which expanded providers' eligibility for hardship exemptions to Stage 2 of the meaningful-use program.
Basically, the law provides the CMS with the authority to batch process hardship applications by categories instead of a case-by-case method used previously.
To comply with the law, the CMS posted a new streamlined hardship application, reducing the amount of information that providers must submit to apply for an exception.
Eligible professionals will have until March 15 to apply for an exemption and eligible hospitals will have until April 1.
The CMS is also making it easier for whole groups of providers to waive out by allowing them to apply for a hardship exception on a single application.
The December legislation was a response to the American Medical Association and other physician and hospital groups pushing back against the timing and other requirements of the final stage of the $31.7 billion program. Stakeholders were pleased with the CMS' announcement.
“Physicians should not be financially penalized for failing to meet arbitrary thresholds in health information technology adoption,” said Dr. Kenneth Mandl, director of Computational Health Informatics Program at Harvard Medical School.
“The culpability for inadequate IT solutions is misplaced when the physicians are blamed, and the policies have caused widespread hardship,” he said.
Last week, CMS acting administrator Andy Slavitt created a stir across the healthcare IT community when, in a wide-ranging speech at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, he talked about major changes afoot for the federal EHR incentive payment program. Slavitt said that the “Meaningful Use program as it has existed will now be effectively over and replaced with something better.”
Slavitt was referring to the implementation of the Medicare Access & CHIP Reauthorization Act. He said the future would see the focus move away from rewarding providers for the use of technology and more for the outcome they achieve with their patients. He also said he hoped to see technology become more user-centered in order to support physicians.