CMS released new Meaningful Use guidance that includes information about the significant hardship exception that some radiologists may be eligible for--which can help them temporarily avoid penalties for failing to adopt electronic health records.
Stage 2 of the final rule, issued last year, contained hardship exceptions for eligible professionals to avoid the Medicare adjustments starting in 2015. One of the exceptions was for any physician whose primary specialty was listed as radiology, pathology or anesthesiology in the Provider Enrollment, Chain and Ownership System (PECOS).
"This resulted in initial confusion because a single PECOS specialty code for the whole of radiology does not exist," said Keith J. Dreyer, Ph.D., chair of the ACR IT and Informatics Committee, in an American College of Radiology release. "ACR immediately brought this discrepancy to the attention of CMS, and the agency promised clarification."
The new guidance issued by CMS now defines radiology as the PECOS medical specialty codes for diagnostic radiology, interventional radiology and nuclear medicine. So physicians in these subspecialties are eligible for the significant hardship exception. According to the ACR, CMS also considered adding radiation oncology, but ultimately excluded that subspecialty.
In an article on DOTmed.com, Michael Peters, the ACR's director of regulatory and legislative affairs, pointed out the law prohibits CMS from granting the hardship exception for more than five years. "So if a radiologist takes advantage of this it will eventually run out and they will be exposed to the penalties," Peters said.