CMS announced Feb. 25 that the attestation deadline for the Medicare EHR (electronic health record) Incentive Program(www.cms.gov) has been extended to March 20.
In a series of emails, CMS said it took the action to give physicians and other eligible providers more time to submit their meaningful use data for 2014 but offered no specific reason for the change.
Physicians who successfully attest to EHR meaningful use for 2014 will receive an incentive payment and avoid a Medicare payment penalty.
Steven Waldren, M.D., director of the AAFP's Alliance for eHealth Innovation, said the AAFP had heard from a number of family physicians who were concerned about meeting the original Feb. 28 deadline. "This is great timing," said Waldren, especially in light of serious winter weather that has pounded the Northeast and certain Mid-Atlantic States in recent weeks.
"The deadline extension is good news for many family physicians," he added.
- CMS announced Feb. 25 that it has pushed the attestation deadline for the Medicare EHR (electronic health record) Incentive Program to March 20. The change does not affect the separate Medicaid EHR Incentive Program.
- CMS also set March 20 as the new deadline for submitting Physician Quality Reporting System data via the EHR reporting option or through qualified clinical data registries.
- The AAFP advocated for a change in the deadline, and a family physician in Tennessee responded with gratitude.
Waldren cautioned that the new deadline applies only to the attestation phase of the program. "Physicians had until Dec. 31 to complete their EHR reporting. The next step, and the one affected by today's announcement, involves physicians logging into the CMS website and completing the actual meaningful use attestation process by inputting data into the system," said Waldren.
The change does not affect deadlines for the separate Medicaid EHR Incentive Program.
On Feb. 25, CMS also announced a March 20 deadline extension for physicians and other eligible professionals who intend to submit Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) data via the EHR reporting option or through qualified clinical data registries.
Like family physicians from many states hard hit by severe winter weather, Nicole Shields, M.D., from New Tazewell, Tenn., saw her attestation window of opportunity disappear.
Shields, who had contacted the AAFP and her state chapter, welcomed the news of both deadline extensions.
Shields had earlier posted on social media: "Help, please -- MU attestation and PQRS submission deadlines are approaching this week on Feb. 28. The state of Tennessee has been in a (weather-related) state of emergency."
Shields practices family medicine at the Lincoln Memorial University DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine in Harrogate, Tenn.
"Our practice planned to complete the MU attestation and PQRS submission upload last week, but have been unable to safely get to the office," said Shields, adding that some people still were without power. With offices shuttered for nearly two weeks and snow continuing to fall, Shields said her office likely would remain closed the rest of the week.
"We would be very disappointed if we missed the deadlines on account of weather and the declared state of emergency, particularly since we have the data to qualify for both incentives," she said.
In an interview with AAFP News, Shields expressed appreciation for the Academy's work.
"I'm going to give the AAFP credit regardless of CMS' reasons for announcing the extension," said Shields. "I just couldn't be happier with the efforts of the AAFP, and I couldn't be prouder of my organization" she added. "I am so relieved that the government heard the pleas of physicians about the need for an extension."
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CMS: EHR Incentive Programs(www.cms.gov)