CMS Proposes Adjusting Meaningful Use Timeline

CMS has proposed delaying the start of Stage 3 of the meaningful use program for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, while the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has proposed adjustments to its certification process, according to a December 6th post on the HHS blog site Health IT Buzz.

Under CMS’ revised meaningful use timeline:

  • The start of Stage 2 has not been changed, but it has been extended through 2016; and
  • The start of Stage 3 has been postponed, and will begin in 2017 for healthcare providers who have completed at least two years in Stage 2 of the program.

According to CMS officials, the goal of this change is two-fold: first, to allow CMS and ONC to focus efforts on the successful implementation of the enhanced patient engagement, interoperability and health information exchange requirements in Stage 2; and second, to utilize data from Stage 2 participation to inform policy decisions for Stage 3.

The phased approach to program participation helps providers move from creating information in Stage 1, to exchanging health information in Stage 2, to focusing on improved outcomes in Stage 3.

CMS described the benefits of the proposed timeline for meaningful use as follows:

  • More analysis of feedback from stakeholders on Stage 2 progress and outcomes;
  • More available data on Stage 2 adoption and measure calculations — especially on new patient engagement measures and health information exchange objectives;
  • More consideration of potential Stage 3 requirements;
  • Additional time for preparation for enhanced Stage 3 requirements;
  • Ample time for developers to create and distribute certified EHR technology before Stage 3 begins, and incorporate lessons learned about usability and customization.

Eligible providers who have completed at least two years of Stage 2 would begin Stage 3 in 2017. Eligible professionals would begin in January 2017, at the start of the calendar year, and eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals would begin in October 2016, at the start of the federal fiscal year.

Notices of proposed rulemaking are expected to be released by CMS and ONC in the fall of 2014 and will offer additional details on the new proposed timeline.

The final rule on Stage 3 of the meaningful use program is expected to be released in the first half of 2015.

Source: CMS , December 6, 2013

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