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BREAKING: Healthcare IT Leaders React to Stage 3 Final Rule Release

October 6, 2015
by Mark Hagland
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Individual healthcare leaders and healthcare associations reacted quickly to the final rule’s release, expressing cautious optimism—for now
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Reactions among healthcare leaders were swift to the release of the final rule to Stage 3 of meaningful use under the HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) Act, when that release was announced on Oct. 6. Generally, provider leaders were enthusiastic about the streamlining of elements of Stage 3 and the simplification and reduction of process measures required of them, based on first reads of the press release announcement by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on Tuesday afternoon, though they also expressed the desire to read all the details of the 752-page rule before making definitive judgments.

Healthcare associations respond

Representing the reaction of the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), Charles E. (Chuck) Christian, chairman of CHIME’s board of trustees, released a statement Tuesday evening that included the following: “We are pleased that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services today finalized modifications to the current stages of the Meaningful Use program and agreed to extend the comment period on Stage 3. CHIME and its 1,700-plus members agree with CMS that it is time to focus the Meaningful Use program on adoption of information technology systems that improve both the quality and safety of patient care. The 752-page rule grants flexibility for providers who are doing their best to not only meet the intent of the federal program, but also ensure the adoption of health information technology that improves patient care.”

The statement noted that, “Importantly, the rule adopts a 90-day reporting period for the current stages of the program, down from 365 days. CHIME has long called for a 90-day reporting period and applauds CMS for adopting this new standard. While several members are positioned to take advantage of this shorter period, others will be challenged to meet it since there are fewer than 90 days remaining in the year. We urge CMS to implement a hardship exemption for those unable to meet this timeframe.”

And it went on  to say that “CHIME also applauds the agency for modifying requirements surrounding patient access to electronic records. The rule stipulates that for 2015 and 2016, one patient discharged from a hospital view, download or transmit their electronic record. With regard to Stage 3, the extra comment period will enable providers, CMS and other stakeholders to ensure that the next stage of Meaningful Use advances interoperability and takes into account new payment models being advanced by Medicare.” Christian’s statement noted that CHIME’s leaders were reviewing the rule in detail, and “will have more detailed comments in the coming days.”

A statement released by the Chicago-based Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), and attributed to Carla Smith, executive vice president, HIMSS North America, said, “IT is a critical tool enabling positive transformation, value-based care models, and the delivery of better care, improved outcomes, and lower costs. In response to the new final regulations released today, HIMSS appreciates the continued efforts of CMS and ONC to simplify and provide flexibility for meeting the Meaningful Use program requirements. We support the confirmation of the 90-day reporting period for 2015. Further, we support the emphasis placed on January 1, 2018 - the start of the period where providers are required to meet Stage 3 objectives and measures.”

Ms. Smith’s statement went on to say that, “Consistently, HIMSS has called for at least 18 months between the publication of a new Meaningful Use rule and the start of a new Stage’s reporting period—the 27 months provided in this final rule appears to address this issue. HIMSS encourages reasonable Meaningful Use-related rules and timelines, as these enable providers to continue their participation in the program, thus supporting a positively transformed health system.”

The statement from the Chicago- and Washington, D.C.-based American Medical Association, attributed to Steven J. Stack, M.D., the AMA’s president, was more guarded in tone. Dr. Stack was quoted in the statement as saying, “While the American Medical Association (AMA) is still in the process of reviewing the Meaningful Use regulations published today, we are pleased that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordination (ONC) listened to the AMA and the concerns of physicians in several key areas in the modifications rule. In particular, the agency addressed the delay in issuing the modifications rule by allowing a hardship exemption for physicians who are unable to attest this year, providing needed relief for those uncertain about the 2015 program requirements. We also acknowledge that the agency is working to improve patient engagement by ensuring that patients can access portals while still providing flexibility in the measure requirements.”