Meaningful Use Stage 2: 4 Things Physicians Should Know

There is much confusion regarding the Stage 2 rules for the meaningful use incentive program. Here are four key elements that physicians need to be aware of.

Here’s what we know. CMS has clearly stated that the Stage 2 rules for meaningful use are meant to increase focus on care coordination and patient engagement. Eligible professionals (EPs) must report on 17 core measures and three of six menu objectives. The Stage 2 Final Rule provides significant clarifying language to aid in interpreting the objectives.

Still there is much confusion regarding the second stage of the meaningful use incentive program. To help clarify, I have identified four key elements of Stage 2 that physicians need to be aware of:

1. More flexibility. Recently HHS published a new proposed rule that would provide eligible professionals greater flexibility in how they use certified EHR technology (CEHRT) to meet meaningful use. The proposed rule would let providers use the 2011 Edition CEHRT or a combination of 2011 and 2014 Edition CEHRT for the EHR reporting period in 2014 for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs. Beginning in 2015, all eligible hospitals and professionals would still be required to report using 2014 Edition CEHRT.

2. New hardship exemption. CMS recently announced that the agency would be more flexible about providing hardship exemptions for providers and vendors truly struggling to meet the incentive program's requirements.

3. Possible challenges. The Stage 2 Final Rule includes core and menu objectives encouraging EPs to increase electronic data transfer to meet specific thresholds. Also, providers must prove that their patients are using technology - namely patient portals - to access health information.  Provider organizations recognize that some patients, for either economic or behavioral reasons, will not respond to outreach and will remain noncompliant.

4. Improvements to patient care. Clinical Quality Measures (CQMs) include an enhanced objective and associated measures to use clinical decision support to improve performance on high-priority conditions. The CQMs are grouped to support six priorities: patient and family engagement, patient safety, care coordination, population/public health, efficient use of resources, and clinical processes and effectiveness. In 2014, all providers, regardless of whether they are in Stage 1 or Stage 2 of meaningful use, will be required to report on the 2014 clinical quality measures finalized in the Stage 2 rule.

Divan Dave is CEO of OmniMD, a specialty-specific EHR, practice management, and e-prescription software provider. E-mail him here.