CMS and ONC Adjust Requirements for Meaningful Use Stage 3 Reporting

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doctor using ehrGiven the time sensitive nature of the MACRA program, this article is out dated. Please refer to Bridge’s MACRA 101 article for more current explanation of the MACRA program and how it relates to a patient portal.

CMS and the ONC have recently released a range of adjustments intended to help reduce reporting burdens on health providers and simplify meaningful use reporting requirements.

The changes, which demonstrate its aim for greater meaningful use flexibility and simplicity, have been received positively by major healthcare organizations and Health IT groups who had voiced their concerns to CMS. In recognition and response to over 2,500 comments from physicians and providers, CMS has stated that it’s time to focus on information technology systems that improve the quality and safety of patient care.

The final rules aim to continue to progress the healthcare industry from a paper-based system to an electronic system, where a doctor’s handwriting had to be interpreted and patient files could be misplaced.

The major adjustments include:

  • Shift the focus of health IT and the adoption of information technology systems so that they become a tool for improvement in the quality and safety of patient care, not an end in itself.
  • Allow providers to choose the measures that are most meaningful for their practices in their reporting.
  • Allow providers and state Medicaid agencies more time – until January 1, 2018 – to comply with the new requirements.
  • Give developers more time to create new technology appropriate to new models of care and to give consumers easier access to data.
  • Support a more useful infrastructure that allows exchange of information between providers and patients.
  • Address health information blocking and work towards greater interoperability between providers and patients.

In addition, the adjustments adopt more flexible reporting periods and will move from a fiscal calendar year to a calendar year beginning in 2015. All providers will have a 90-day reporting period in 2015 as well as new participants in 2016 and 2017, and for any provider moving to Stage 3 in 2017.

CMS has also considered the objectives and measures of the EHR incentive programs in 2015 to 2017 and restructured these to align with Stage 3.

The major provisions for Stage 3 starting in 2017 include:

  • Eight objectives for eligible professionals and eligible hospitals. In stage 3, more than 60% of the proposed measures require interoperability, up from 33% in stage 2.
  • Public health reporting with flexible options for measure selection.
  • Align CQM reporting with the CMS quality reporting programs.
  • Extend the access that patients have to their own health records through application program interfaces (API’s) and empower individuals to make key health decisions.

The simplified stage 3 measures were in response to complaints from many providers that the reporting rules were inflexible. Furthermore, according to ONC, the stage 3 requirements are optional in 2017. Providers who choose to begin stage 3 in 2017 will have a 90-day reporting period. All providers will be required to comply with stage 3 requirements beginning in 2018 using EHR technology certified to the 2015 Edition.

CMS is also encouraging providers to apply for exemptions if they had difficulty with their EHR vendor or experienced challenges with implementation due to the timing of the rules. Additionally, the new rules aim to give individuals greater access to their information through the development of user-friendly technology so they can be engaged and empowered in their care.

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