The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has finally agreed to give providers a reprieve, announcing that it intends to issue a new rule that would "update" the Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive programs, and shorten the attesting reporting period in 2015 from 365 days to 90 days in order to "accommodate" these changes.
Patrick Conway, M.D. (pictured), deputy administrator for innovation and quality and the chief medical officer for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, stated in a Jan. 29 blog post that CMS is following "multiple tracks" to realign the Meaningful Use program "to reflect the progress toward program goals and be responsive to stakeholder input."
"The new rule, expected this spring, would be intended to be responsive to provider concerns about software implementation, information exchange readiness, and other related concerns in 2015," Conway said. "It would also be intended to propose changes reflective of developments in the industry and progress toward program goals achieved since the program began in 2011."
CMS is considering proposals to:
- Realign hospital EHR reporting periods to the calendar year to allow eligible hospitals more time to incorporate 2014 Edition software into their workflows and to better align with other CMS quality programs
- Modify other aspects of the program to match long-term goals, reduce complexity, and lessen providers' reporting burdens
- Shorten the EHR reporting period in 2015 to 90 days to accommodate these changes
The new rule would be separate from the proposed rule implementing Stage 3 of the Meaningful Use program. That rule has already been submitted to the Office of Management and Budget for review.
Many stakeholders had decried the 365-day reporting period for 2015 on the grounds that it was too difficult to meet; several members of Congress had introduced legislation to reduce the reporting period to 90 days after informal appeals failed to sway the agency.
"We're pleased that CMS and ONC have been wonderful listeners and now that listening has turned into action," College of Healthcare Information Management Executives President and CEO Russell Branzell told FierceEMR via a phone interview following the announcement. "Even though we had a significant number of hospitals report for the 2014 period, there wasn't a lot of flexibility for 2015. This gives us a much better chance to participate in attestation for 2015."
Branzell added that he thought that everyone, including CMS and ONC, recognized there was a problem with the reporting period.
"They were trying to process it and see where we were with the 2014 numbers," he said. "Does it help that legislators were also chiming in? Yes, but that's not the only reason" for the change.
The Meaningful Use program has struggled as it advanced from Stage 1 to Stage 2 in 2014; CMS had made some accommodations to help providers out, but up until now had refused to budge regarding the year-long reporting period.
To learn more:
- read the blog post
Editor's Note: FierceHealthIT Senior Editor Dan Bowman contributed to this report.