On March 20, HHS and the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology released a long-awaited proposed rule(www.federalregister.gov) on stage three of its meaningful use programs.
The proposal essentially fulfilled the government's intention, as announced earlier this year, to make participation in its Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Records (EHRs) Incentive programs easier for physicians.
At the same time, the agencies released a companion rule(www.federalregister.gov) aimed at improving the 2015 Edition Health IT Certification Criteria. That proposal deals with suggested certification criteria and standards as well as implementation specifications for certified EHR technology.
Both rules are scheduled for publication in the Federal Register on March 30.
According to an HHS press release,(www.hhs.gov) the combined rules are intended to give physicians and other eligible health care professionals increased flexibility as they navigate the programs and, at the same time, drive interoperability of health IT across the nation.
In particular, the stage three proposed rule would, according to an HHS fact sheet,(healthit.gov)
- establish a single reporting period based on the calendar year;
- give physicians the option of beginning stage three in 2017 or 2018;
- simplify meaningful use objectives measures and reporting requirements by allowing flexibility with measures related to health information exchange, consumer engagement and public health reporting;
- reduce the overall number of objectives to eight;
- remove redundant measures and those that have been widely adopted; and
- align clinical quality measure reporting with other CMS programs.
"The flow of information is fundamental to achieving a health system that delivers better care, smarter spending and healthier people," HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in the release.
Regarding the proposed certification criteria for 2015 edition technology, it would, among other things, allow for the adoption of standards and certification criteria for data portability as well as the adoption of standards that would support the goals of the HHS interoperability road map(healthit.gov) released earlier this year.
Steven Waldren, M.D., director of the AAFP's Alliance for eHealth Innovation, told AAFP News that the AAFP was reviewing both proposed rules with a keen eye toward their combined effect on family physicians.
"It appears that CMS has made significant changes to the meaningful use program in this proposed rule. I suspect there are some valid suggestions in this proposal as well as some ideas that we'll question," said Waldren.
He added that after careful scrutiny, the AAFP would make its official comments available to HHS within the 60-day public comment period.
Related AAFP News Coverage
CMS Plans to Revise Meaningful Use in 2015
AAFP Welcomes Reduced Administrative Burden