Healthcare News & Insights

CMS says 2 EHR final rules will make your life easier

electronic-medical-recordWouldn’t it be wonderful if someone or something made your providers’ jobs easier and less complicated, especially when it comes to electronic health records (EHRs)? 

Well, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) say they have.

They recently released the final rule for 2015 Edition Health IT Certification Criteria, and the final rule and comment period for the Medicare and Medicaid EHRs Incentive Programs. Both have undergone significant changes in current requirements, and according to CMS, “they’ll ease the reporting burden for providers, support interoperability and improve patient outcomes.”

More work to do

For years now, hospitals have been struggling to implement and use EHRs to improve patient care. And they’ve made great progress. Ninety-five percent of eligible hospitals have successfully used EHRs and received incentive payments from the federal government.

Unfortunately, the industry as a whole has a lot more work to do.

CMS, however, is trying to help by listening to physicians and other providers’ comments about the challenges and burdens they face using EHRs.

Some of the comments taken to heart that spurred the changes in the final rules include:

  • increasing requirements for the use of EHR technology
  • competing reporting requirements among programs, and
  • reporting on complex and numerous meaningful use requirements.

Rule changes

Here’s how the rules have changed:

  • Many of the “check box” process measures were removed and enhanced focus has been placed on clinical decision support, electronic prescribing and information exchange.
  • Providers now have the flexibility to choose the measures of progress most relevant to their practices. For eligible professionals, the number of objectives were reduced from 18 to 10 with one public health reporting objective. For eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals (CAHs), the number of objectives went from 20 to nine with one public health reporting objective. Clinical Quality Measures (CQM) reporting for both eligible professionals and hospitals/CAHs stayed the same.
  • Certain aspects of the reporting of clinical quality measures were aligned with other CMS Medicare quality reporting programs, giving providers the ability to report something once and receive credit for multiple programs.
  • To accommodate changes to program requirements, all providers have 90-day reporting in 2015, as do new providers in 2016 and 2017, and anyone choosing to adopt the 2018 measures a year early.
  • Providers and states now have until Jan. 1, 2018, to comply with the new requirements and prepare for the next set of system improvements, and
  • Measure that focus on interoperability are now emphasized as opposed to those that focus on data entry – more than 60% of the measures rely upon an exchange of health information, previously 33% did.

Not ready

CMS says the Department of Health and Human Services is committed to working with hospitals, physicians, clinicians, consumers and stakeholders to make these programs as effective as possible.

And for providers who aren’t ready to qualify for the EHR Incentive Programs, CMS said it will use its “administrative flexibility” as much as it can to help those who are making efforts to adopt and use the technology succeed.

Providers who aren’t ready should submit requests for significant hardship exception from the payment adjustment through the existing request process. These requests are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Finally, there’s an additional 60-day public comment period during which you can give your feedback on the final rules.

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