CHIME backs bill that would add more flexibility to Meaningful Use requirements

Doctor typing on laptop
CHIME is backing a bill that it says could ease the transition to Meaningful Use Stage 3. (Getty/shironosov)

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives is throwing support behind a House bill aimed at easing the transition to Meaningful Use Stage 3 as the 2018 deadline looms.

Cletis Earle, chairman-elect of CHIME’s board of trustees, testified (PDF) before the House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Health on Thursday that the lack of time left to prepare for the start of Stage 3 could force many providers to rely on hardship exemptions.

Earle was among a slew of healthcare industry leaders offering insight on ways to “strengthen and improve” Medicare at the hearing.

The bill (PDF), introduced at the end of June, is also being examined by the House Ways and Means Committee. It would give the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary more discretion to modify Meaningful Use requirements to align with broader changes to the healthcare industry. Earle argued that relief from the rigorous timeline currently in place provides more flexibility to providers who are at different points in their transition to robust EHR systems in a constantly-changing healthcare landscape where issues like cybersecurity have consumed more time and energy from hospital CIOs.

“Our members would prefer to participate in the program, whether that be through more reasonable reporting requirements or timelines, rather than file for a hardship exemption,” Earle said. “Maintaining momentum toward a digital transformation is vital.”

Beginning in 2018, hospitals will be expected to use fully upgraded EHR systems that meet the 2015 requirements of certified EHR technology (CEHRT). According to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, 86 vendors have been certified to meet the 2015 Edition.

Earle said a survey conducted by CHIME in April 2017 suggested that 81% of its members had not yet met the CEHRT requirements, and more than 70% will not be ready for the regulations to kick in on Jan. 1, leaving them at significant risk for a penalty.

RELATED: Provider, tech groups ask Price to delay Stage 3 MU implementation 'indefinitely'

Regulators have already provided physician practices some relief. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' proposed rule on the Medicare and CHIP Reauthorization Act would ease the 2015 EHR requirements for physician practices, making it optional for 2018 participation in the Merit-based Incentive Payment System. However, CMS has yet to offer similar relief for hospitals; though CMS issued a laundry list of payment updates in a proposed rule earlier this month, there was no mention of MU.

Tom Nickels, the American Hospital Association’s executive vice president for government relations and public policy, said the group was “dismayed” by the lack of relief.

Groups from across the healthcare industry have asked HHS Secretary Tom Price to delay the start of MU Stage 3. The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society suggested a six-month delay to allow vendors additional time to prepare certified products, while other groups, including CHIME, have called on Price to delay the start of Stage 3 “indefinitely.” A collection of provider groups led by the American Medical Association pushed for a one-year delay.

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