This April, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed a rule that would bring significant modifications to meaningful use (MU) in 2015 through 2017. As per CMS, the proposed rule aims at reducing reporting requirements and enabling participants to focus on the advanced use of electronic health records as well as improving the quality to support data exchange and interoperability. The rule also seeks to better align requirements under MU Stage 1, Stage 2 and the currently proposed Stage 3 requirements.

Major Changes

  • The most important one is shortening the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program EHR reporting period in 2015 to a 90-day period. Healthcare providers may risk losing incentive payments or face Medicare reimbursement penalties if they fail to meet their meaningful use attestation within this period.
  • Since the inception of this incentive program, hospitals were required to meet their MU requirements in the fiscal year while physicians and other eligible professionals were required to use the calendar year. The newly proposed rule allows hospitals to participate in the calendar year starting in 2015.
  • The proposed rule would reduce the number of meaningful use objectives in order to improve the advanced use of EHRs. Redundant measures and those that have been broadly adopted will also be removed as per the rule.
  • There would be changes in Stage 2 meaningful use requirements related to patient engagement. For example, CMS proposed that the requirement for patients to use technology to access, download, view and transmit their medical records be reduced from 5% of eligible providers’ patients to just one patient.

The new meaningful use participants would be allowed to attest for any 90-day period within the calendar year during 2015 and 2016. For 2016, all eligible professionals, hospitals and critical access hospitals that are attesting for the first time would be allowed to attest for any 90-day period within the calendar year while returning participants would be required to use a full calendar year reporting period.For 2017, all eligible providers would use a full calendar year reporting as proposed in the Stage 3 rule regardless of their previous participation.

While stakeholders hail the proposed rule, the American Hospital Association expressed concern that the addition of many programs creates confusion and added burden for hospitals on the top of the proposed Stage 3 requirements. However, there is a 60-day comment period during which CMS will accept public feedback. A draft final rule will be published after that.