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BREAKING: Latest CMS Proposed Rule Aims for More MU Flexibility

April 10, 2015
by Rajiv Leventhal
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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued a new proposed rule to align meaningful use Stage 1 and Stage 2 objectives and measures with the long-term proposals for Stage 3.

In an announcement, the federal agency said that the aim is “to build progress toward program milestones, to reduce complexity, and to simplify providers’ reporting. These modifications would allow providers to focus more closely on the advanced use of certified electronic health record (EHR) technology to support health information exchange and quality improvement.”

The proposed rule would streamline reporting requirements. To accomplish these goals, the rule proposes:  

  • Reducing the overall number of objectives to focus on advanced use of EHRs;
  • Removing measures that have become redundant, duplicative or have reached wide-spread adoption;
  • Realigning the reporting period beginning in 2015, so hospitals would participate on the calendar year instead of the fiscal year; and
  • Allowing a 90-day reporting period in 2015 to accommodate the implementation of these proposed changes in 2015.

On March 20, CMS released its proposed Stage 3 rule, also aimed to reduce program complexity and align meaningful use closer with other quality reporting programs. In terms of specific objectives and measures, the Stage 3 proposed rule has reduced the objectives to eight to focus on "advanced use" of EHRs.

In this most recent announcement, CMS reiterated that this new proposed rule will allow providers to refocus on the advanced use objectives and measures. “These advanced measures are at the core of health IT supported healthcare which drives toward improving the way electronic health information is shared among providers and with their patients, enhancing the ability to measure quality and set improvement goals, and ultimately improving the way health care is delivered and experienced,” the agency said. 

In a joint statement issues April 10, CHIME and AMDIS applaud the modifications. “The ability for providers to demonstrate MU through a shortened reporting period will keep them engaged in the program and position our industry to continue the momentum towards the goals of enhanced care coordination and interoperability,” the organizations said, adding that the adjustment to the patient access measure to “equal to or greater than one [percent]” down from five percent was a welcome adjustment from CMS.

But the two groups said CMS made a mistake by failing to address the program’s “pass/fail” construct. “Now that we are well into the penalty phase of the program, we do not believe providers who make good-faith efforts should be penalized for missing 1 percent on one threshold,” they said. “Rather, policymakers should acknowledge providers who invest resources to become meaningful users, but fall short of perfection, by limiting penalties to those providers who clearly did not make the effort.”

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