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    Meaningful use final rules: 3 things you need to know

    On October 6, 2015, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) released Meaningful Use (MU)-Stage 2 modifications and Stage 3 final rules.

    The final rules will simplify requirements and add new flexibilities for providers to make electronic health information available when and where it matters most and for healthcare providers and consumers to be able to readily, safely, and securely exchange that information, according to CMS.

    Featured Resources: BYOD Trends in Healthcare: 2015 Survey Data Revealed 

    Here are three things you should know about the new MU final rules.

    #1. CMS believes the goals of its Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Program are real and attainable—but the organization is willing to be flexible.

    “Yes, in its current form the EHR incentive program will sunset in 2019 as Medicare begins to pay physicians on its new Merit-Based Incentive Payment System [MIPS], created under legislation that replaces the much-maligned sustainable growth rate formula,” says Anwesha Dutta, director, Healthcare Advisory, PwC. “How much the program changes, however, is still an open question—and one CMS is willing to work with the industry to determine. The new rule, released earlier this week, takes steps to gather more of the health industry’s insights into how much participation in the EHR incentive program should count towards performance scores under MIPS.”

    That said, according to Dutta, the agency nevertheless is taking steps to show greater flexibility under the program’s current structure and timeline. The just-released rule gives providers an additional year, until January 1, 2018, to meet the new meaningful use requirements. At the same time it drops more than a dozen objectives that eligible professionals (EPs) and hospitals must meet.

    Related: [BLOG]: Conquer the balancing act of Meaningful Use 2

    “Among those objectives and standards that remain, some will have lower thresholds than before,” Dutta says. “For instance, the requirement that hospitals demonstrate patient engagement using an electronic record changed considerably. Now, a hospital only needs to show that one patient has viewed, downloaded or transferred his or her medical record to meet the requirement. That will increase to 5% under Stage 3, however.”

    There’s another sign that CMS is being flexible, according to Dutta: The agency greatly shortened its reporting period.

    “While the Stage 3 requirements are optional in 2017, those providers who choose to report will have a 90-day period to do so, not a full-year as originally described,” she says.

    However, this may not be enough to satisfy critics of the program, according to Dutta. “The American Hospital Association points out that more than 60% of hospitals, and about 90% of doctors, have yet to attest to Stage 2,” she says.

     

    NEXT: The ability to share data is now a priority

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