Time Is Running Out for Meaningful Use in 2014

Here's what you need to know to help you close out your 2014 meaningful use reporting year and get ready for 2015.

Is it December already? If you've been scrambling to meet the requirements for meaningful use and attest in time to qualify for incentives, the year has probably passed far too quickly. In recent months, software glitches and delays, rule changes, and - for those in Stage 2 -the introduction of more difficult requirements, have made the meaningful use obstacle course even more challenging. But the final rule, announced on August 28, offered some relief.

• Eligible providers will be able to use old (version 2011), new (version 2014), or a combination of old and new versions of EHR technology.

• Physicians who were scheduled to move to Stage 2 in 2014 may stay in Stage 1 for an extra year - that's one more year to prepare for and deal with some of the thornier challenges of Stage 2, such as the patient engagement requirements.

• Some providers were able to apply for a hardship exception because of software delays or software that was not delivered in time to allow for proper installation and training. If you met the November deadline (extended to November 30) for applying for such an exception, be sure you have adequate documentation of the problems you encountered, so that you aren't as likely to find yourself at risk of audit, advised Fletcher Lance, vice president and national healthcare leader at consulting firm North Highland.

If you weren't able to meet the Oct. 1 attestation reporting deadline, you can still attest for the last 90 days of the year and qualify for an incentive for 2014. The reporting period ends on Dec. 31, but the attestation deadline is Feb. 28, 2015.

"There has been a lot of flexibility in this for a government program," said Lance.

But he warns that if you aren't fully implemented in 2014, you are going to have to double down from here on out. There will be less flexibility in 2015 as the program moves into the penalty phase and will require a full year (rather than 90 days) of reporting. While it is possible that more relief will be offered in 2015 (particularly the much-contested full-year reporting requirement), it would be very unwise to count on it.

If you are squared away, take a deep breath and relax -but not for long. 2015 is just around the corner.