Meaningful Use 'flexibility' included in OPPS 2017 final rule

Doctor Computer and Gadgets

As part of the final Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System rule for 2017 unveiled Tuesday, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has eased several requirements for participants in the Meaningful Use program.

For 2016 and 2017, all returning participants to the program will only have to attest to the meaningful use of electronic health records for 90 consecutive days, as opposed to an entire year. CMS, in July’s proposed rule, called for a shortened reporting period for eligible providers (EP), eligible hospitals (EH) and critical access hospitals (CAH).

The rule also eliminates clinical decision support and computerized order entry objectives for EHs and CAHs under the Medicare EHR Incentive Program beginning in 2017. What’s more, CMS is finalizing an application process for a one-time significant hardship exception for EPs from penalties in 2018. The hardship is available to  EPs new to the EHR program and who are transitioning to the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA).

Additionally, CMS notes that providers must demonstrate as part of Modified Stage 2 and Stage 3 of Meaningful Use that only a single patient viewed, downloaded and transmitted their records.

“These additions both increase flexibility, lower the reporting burden for providers and focus on the exchange of health information and using technology to support care,” CMS says in its announcement for the rule.

Still, the rule maintains a 2018 start date and full-year reporting for hospitals and CAHs for Stage 3.

American Hospital Association Senior Vice President of Public Policy Analysis and Development Ashley Thompson lauded the 90-day reporting period, but took issue with the 2018 start date for Stage 3, as well as requirements calling on providers to provide third-party access to their systems via application program interfaces (APIs). Regarding the latter, Thompson said that concerns remain that APIs will create security risks.

“[T]he changes do not sufficiently align the hospital requirements with those that physicians will face under the Medicare Quality Reporting Program,” Thompson added.

In August, a group of healthcare stakeholders, including the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives and the American Medical Association urged CMS, in a letter to Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt, to move forward on a 90-day Meaningful Use reporting period for 2016.