Health IT groups praise MACRA’s EHR flexibility, advocate similar reforms for hospitals

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Health IT groups that have urged CMS to extend EHR certification requirements were pleased with Tuesday's rule.

The nation’s top health IT groups were predictably pleased with the MACRA proposed rule released on Tuesday, praising the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services for giving physicians more wiggle room on EHR upgrades.

The proposed rule which updates the Quality Payment Program for 2018, allows physicians participating in the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) to continue using the 2014 Edition Certified EHRs. Physician practices that upgrade to the 2015 Edition will be rewarded with a bonus factored into the scoring methodology. Several groups have been pushing CMS to extend the deadline for 2015 Certification.

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In a statement, HIMSS praised the “additional flexibilities” from CMS, noting that the proposal “aligns with our vision for how the program should proceed in 2018 and “strikes a needed balance” in the transition to new EHR systems.

American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) President and CEO Douglas Fridsma, M.D., added that rewarding physicians that adopt more advanced technology “will improve interoperability for providers and provide patients with better access to their data.”

RELATED: HIMSS echoes calls for HHS to delay updated EHR certification requirements

Others raised concerns that hospitals still faced significant pressure to upgrade their EHR systems. In a letter issued CMS Administrator Seema Verma last week, prior to the rule’s release, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) repeated its request to push the 2015 EHR Certification mandate and Meaningful Use Stage 3 measures back at least a year.

In a post published Thursday, Mari Savickis, vice president of federal affairs at CHIME, said CMS “largely heeded our advice,” but noted the proposed rule does not include hospitals. She added that a small percentage of vendors are certified for the 2015 Edition, and said the January 2018 deadline would “put providers at risk of substantial financial penalties.”

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Health IT Now Executive Director Joel White said the flexibility within the proposed rule was an indication CMS “appears willing to learn from past missteps as the ramp up of the Quality Payment Program continues.”

But he also urged the agency to use the delayed implementation of 2015 Edition certification to review the requirements within the certification program.

“While this may ease the regulatory burden for providers and vendors in the short term, a delay without reform is a missed opportunity,” he said.