Electronic Health Records – Upcoming Proposed Regulations for EHs & EPs
Multiple health care providers and organizations—both eligible hospitals (EHs) and eligible physicians (EPs)—sent numerous letters and comments to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) about the potentially unsuccessful future of the electronic health records (EHR) program if specific changes weren’t updated for upcoming program years.
Therefore, CMS proposed to engage in rulemaking on two new regulations this spring, independent of each other. One regulation will directly affect program years 2015 and 2016. The second regulation will affect Meaningful Use (MU) for program year 2017 and beyond.
The first regulation appears to replace the Flexibility in Health IT Reporting (Flex-IT) Act, which was originally put in front of Congress in late 2014 but didn’t get approval before the holiday recess. The Flex-IT Act was reintroduced in January, but it appears this proposed regulation will replace it. CMS is following the lead of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ commitment to create a health information technology infrastructure that elevates patient-centered care, improves health outcomes and supports providers that care for patients. Therefore, CMS is considering these changes to help ensure providers meet MU requirements:
- Shortening the 2015 reporting period to 90 days to address provider concerns about their ability to fully deploy 2014 edition software
- Realigning hospital reporting periods with the calendar year to allow eligible hospitals more time to incorporate 2014 edition software into their workflows and better align with other quality programs
- Modifying other aspects of the programs to match long-term goals, reduce complexity and lessen providers’ reporting burdens
The second EHR regulation to be released in program year 2015 is the proposed Stage 3 MU rule. Stage 1 was intended to enable providers and professionals to get on an EHR system, while Stage 2 centered on involving the patient more. Stage 3 will focus on interoperability and outcomes.
The proposed Stage 3 MU rule has been drafted by CMS and is on the Office of Management and Budget’s desk for review. CMS intends to limit the scope of the pending proposed rule for Stage 3 MU to program year 2017 and beyond, meaning it won’t affect program years 2015 or 2016. However, potentially having the Stage 3 MU rule proposed, commented on and finalized during program year 2015 will provide EHR vendors time to adjust their software for the Stage 3 criteria and obtain certification before the beginning of program year 2017. This, in turn, could offer EHs and EPs time to begin strategizing about Stage 3 implementation.
For additional information or questions about EHR regulations, contact your BKD advisor.