Healthcare News & Insights

Making progress under the new ‘meaningful use’ rules

Making progress under the new MU rules

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released new rules about its meaningful use program — and they should bring some relief to healthcare providers trying to earn incentives. 

149402573The healthcare industry has slowly been making its way into a more technology-focused era. A recent study shows that a majority of healthcare facilities have begun using some kind of basic electronic health record (EHR) system. These systems allow providers to input, view and share patient information, physicians notes, medications and lab results.

But despite the growing number of facilities implementing EHRs, many hospitals still hit roadblocks when it comes to meeting criteria for meaningful use stage 2 incentives.

Added flexibility

Thankfully, there’s some good news for those providers from CMS — the agency just finalized rules which allow more time and flexibility to meet stage 2 criteria, reports Fierce EMR.

The new rules allow facilities more leeway when it comes to the EHR software they use to meet the criteria. Many providers and healthcare organizations had complained that they wouldn’t be able to meet the stage 2 deadline because their EHR system wouldn’t be updated in time. Many of the hospitals’ EHR vendors were tied down by large backlogs of requests for meaningful use-related upgrades.

The new rule states that providers have another year to get their EHRs upgraded. And in the meantime they can use 2011 certified EHR software to qualify for stage 2 incentives during the 2014 reporting period. Facilities can also qualify by using 2011 EHRs in conjunction with 2014 certified EHR software to attest to stage 2.

It’s worth noting that this flexibility only applies to the 2014 reporting year, by 2015 all healthcare providers will have to use 2014 EHRs to meet stage 2 requirements.

The other good news is that CMS is extending the deadline for providers to qualify for meaningful use incentives. Eligible providers now have until 2016 to meet stage 2 requirements and until 2017 to meet stage three criteria, based on when they began implementing EHRs.

Moving forward

To make progress implementing EHRs effectively for meaningful use requirements there are steps facility leaders can take before deciding to continue their compliance efforts. Derek Kosiorek, principal at MGMA Healthcare Consulting, recommends in Healthcare IT News that leaders should:

  1. Consider their facilities operations and how best to leverage an EHR. Kosiorek points out that sometime facilities let the EHR dictate their operations. That shouldn’t be the case. Facilities should consider their natural workflow and evaluate EHR capabilities to see how the EHR can enhance operations.
  2. Be sure to have a specified meaningful use guru. Have someone in your organization who can dedicate time to learning all the ins and outs of the meaningful use program. They should focus on learning the program rules and regulations, and keeping track of the incentive program deadlines and requirements.
  3. Identify your timeline weaknesses and develop a compliance plan. Find out how long it’ll be to get the necessary EHR updates, then use this information to develop a timeline for implementing an effective meaningful use compliance plan.

 

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