The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) released the Stage 3 proposed rule to the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Records Incentive Programs (“Proposed Rule”) on March 20, 2015. To provide context, eligible professionals (“EPs”) and hospitals must attest to demonstrating meaningful use of certified electronic health record (“EHR”) technology to qualify for incentive payments through the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs. Failure to demonstrate meaningful use generally results in negative payment adjustments under the Medicare program for EPs and hospitals, unless an EP or hospital qualifies for a hardship exception. The criteria used by CMS to determine meaningful use by providers has evolved over three stages of rulemaking.
Now in Stage 3, the Proposed Rule aims to broaden CMS’s efforts to increase simplicity and flexibility in the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, while driving interoperability and increasing the focus on improved patient outcomes. It also seeks to further align the Medicare and Medicaid Incentive Programs with other CMS quality reporting programs that use certified health information technology, such as the hospital inpatient quality reporting and the physician quality reporting systems.
The Proposed Rule specifies the meaningful use criteria that EPs and hospitals must meet in order to qualify for Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive payments and to avoid negative payment adjustments under Medicare. These meaningful use criteria are optional in 2017, but are mandatory beginning in 2018.
Among other proposals, CMS seeks the following in the Stage 3 Proposed Rule:
CMS intends for Stage 3 to be the final stage of the meaningful use framework and to incorporate portions of Stage 1 and Stage 2 into its requirements. As a result, Stage 3 will be the single final set of objectives and measures for meaningful use and will eliminate Stages 1 and 2. CMS believes this will reduce provider burden and allow for greater focus on improving outcomes, enhancing interoperability, and increasing patient engagement.
The comment period for Stage 3 ends May 29, 2015.