New Meaningful Use Rule: Good News for Many Physicians

September 2, 2014
Aubrey Westgate

Physicians and their practices have a little more breathing room when it comes to meeting the requirements of the EHR incentive program.

Physicians and their practices have a little more breathing room when it comes to meeting the requirements of the EHR incentive program.

CMS recently released a new rule allowing flexibility in certified EHR technology for meeting meaningful use in 2014. The rule also finalizes the extension of Stage 2 through 2016 for certain providers, and it announces that Stage 3 will now begin in 2017.

Here's more on the key elements of the final rule that physicians and their practices should be aware of:

1. Greater flexibility. Eligible providers will now be able to use 2011 edition certified EHR technology (CEHRT), or a combination of 2011 and 2014 edition certified EHR technology for an EHR reporting period in 2014. In 2015, all eligible professionals will be required to use the 2014 edition CEHRT.

One reason CMS may have added more flexibility to its requirements? By the end of July, only about 1,900 eligible providers 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," Marilyn Tavenner, CMS administrator, said in a statement regarding the final rule. "We were excited to see that there is overwhelming support for this change.

In an article following the release of the final rule, practice consultant Elizabeth Woodcock wrote that, with many vendors failing to deliver fully functional 2014 certified EHR technology, "this August 29 final rule was the last hope for successful reporting in 2014."

Later, she told Physicians Practice via e-mail, "I do believe that the flexibility will allow [eligible providers] to participate, given the medley of options."

Practice consultant Owen Dahl agreed with Woodcock. He told Physicians Practice via e-mail that the added flexibility "takes some burden off" eligible providers and makes attestation more of a "reasonable" possibility.

2. Long reporting period. While more flexibility for providers may be a step in the right direction, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), said more could be done to ensure that higher numbers of providers could satisfy the meaningful use criteria.

Prior to the release of the final rule, the organization, and many others, had pushed CMS to allow providers to choose any quarterly EHR reporting period to qualify for meaningful use in 2015, rather than requiring 365-days of reporting.

"CHIME is deeply disappointed in the decision made by CMS and ONC to require 365-days of EHR reporting in 2015," CHIME President and CEO Russ Branzell said in a statement. "This single provision has severely muted the positive impacts of this final rule. Further, it has all but ensured that industry struggles will continue well beyond 2014."

Dahl agreed that the 365-day reporting period could take a toll on many physicians. It "creates a problem or major area of concern as well," he said.

3. Useful resources. A solid understanding of how the new rule applies to your practice's meaningful use journey is critical. Here are a few helpful resources:

Click here to view an updated meaningful use timeline and a chart with 2011 and 2014 CEHRT edition options.
Click here to use an interactive tool to determine your 2014 options.
Click here to view a chart detailing the 2014 participation options.
Click here to view a guide that provides resources based on the 2014 options.