On Friday afternoon, federal officials announced that CMS has proposed delaying the start of Stage 3 of the meaningful use program, while the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has proposed adjustments to its certification process.
Under the 2009 federal economic stimulus package, health care providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health record systems can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments.
Revised Meaningful Use Timeline
Under CMS' revised meaningful use timeline:
- Stage 2 would be extended through 2016; and
- Stage 3 would begin in 2017 for health care providers who have completed at least two years in Stage 2 of the program.
According to a blog post by Robert Tagalicod -- director of CMS' Office of E-Health Standards and Services -- and acting National Coordinator for Health IT Jacob Reider, the revised timeline would offer a variety of benefits, such as:
- Allowing for more analysis of stakeholder feedback on Stage 2 progress and outcomes;
- The availability of more data on Stage 2 adoption and measure calculations;
- Allowing for more consideration of possible Stage 3 requirements;
- Providing additional time for preparation for Stage 3 requirements; and
- Giving vendors adequate time to develop and distribute certified EHR technology ahead of Stage 3 and to incorporate usability and customization lessons.
In the fall of 2014, CMS is expected to release a notice of proposed rulemaking for Stage 3 and ONC will release the corresponding NPRM for the 2017 Edition of ONC Standards and Certification Criteria, according to the blog post.
The NPRMs will offer additional details on the new proposed timeline.
The final rule on Stage 3 of the meaningful use program is expected to be released in the first half of 2015.
Changes to Certification Process
Meanwhile, ONC has proposed a new regulatory approach that would allow certification criteria to be updated more frequently.
According to officials, the change is designed to:
- Provide public input on policy proposals;
- Allow the certification processes to more quickly adapt to include newer industry standards; and
- Provide more predictability for EHR developers.
As part of the new approach to certification, CMS will propose a rule to create a voluntary 2015 edition of certification criteria.
According to the blog post, the voluntary 2015 edition would:
- Be responsive to stakeholder feedback;
- Address issues identified in the 2014 certification edition; and
- Reference updated standards and implementation guides designed to advance interoperability.
Because the 2015 edition would be voluntary, providers participating in the meaningful use incentive program would not be required to upgrade to 2015 edition EHR technology and vendors would not be required to recertify their products (Tagalicod/Reider, CMS blog post, 11/27).