Meaningful Use Flexibility Rule

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published the final rule for Meaningful Use flexibility, extending the Stage 2 deadline for the program for certain providers until 2016 and the Stage 3 start date to 2017. It also allows eligible providers to use 2011 edition of certified electronic health record technology (CEHRT), or a combination of the 2011 and 2014 editions.

The delay was proposed last May, in response to provider feedback, requesting more flexibility. At the time, only four hospitals had attested to Stage 2.

“We listened to stakeholder feedback and provided CEHRT flexibility for 2014 to help ensure providers can continue to participate in the EHR Incentive Programs forward,” said CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner in a written announcement. “We were excited to see that there is overwhelming support for this change.”

That optimism isn’t shared by many providers and others in the healthcare industry.

Robert Wah, president of the American Medical Association is concerned “that the meaningful use program continues to move full steam ahead without regard to the challenges faced by physicians and hospitals during the past few years, including a lack of interoperability.”

American Hospital Association Director of Policy Chantal Worzala said that while the AHA appreciates the offered flexibility in the final rule, she was critical of the fact that the reporting period for fiscal year 2015 was not shortened, saying it “offers little relief.”

In fact, the final rule didn’t change any of the proposed rule’s provisions, including the requirement for a full year of attestation. Many groups pushed for a flexible three-month period at any point in the year.

“This sensible recommendation, if taken, would have assuaged industry concerns over the pace and trajectory of rulemaking; it would have pushed providers to meet a higher bar without pushing them off the cliff, and it would have ensured the long-term vitality of the program itself,” said Russell Branzell, president and CEO of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME).

Providers won’t be penalized for not moving towards meaningful use Stage 2 during the 2014 reporting period. The CMS contends that the delays implemented will give providers a better chance to participate in the meaningful use program and to meet objectives, like:

  • Electronic prescribing
  • Providing clinical summaries to patients
  • Reporting public health data and quality measurements
  • Checks for drug interactions and allergies