In an effort to encourage providers to implement electronic medical records at a more rapid pace, the Department of Health and Human Services extended the deadline recently for satisfying Meaningful Use requirements. These requirements are broken, currently, into three stages - with the deadline for meeting stage 1 requirements slated as February 29, 2012.
Previously, electronic medical records' Stage 2 requirement deadlines were slated for 2013 but that date has been pushed out to 2014. There are some stipulations; the deadline extension does not apply to hospitals - Stage 2 requirements must still be met in 2013 for hospitals claiming meaningful use in 2011. However, for those doctors still trying to locate the best EMR for a small practice, there remains a window to implement meaningful use EHR systems and gain the benefits of electronic medical records.
That window is ever shrinking, so it's important to think about taking action sooner rather than later. The Department of Health and Human Services is requesting review of Stage 2 Meaningful Use rules that set standards, implementation specifications and certification requirements for those seeking the Stage 2 incentive.
This review, handled by the Office of Management and Budget, is considered to be part of the final phase before the final rules are made public.
If your office has yet to begin implementing electronic medical records, and you've been concerned that you may not be able to make the 2013 deadline, this updated timeline will allow small to midsized practices plenty of room for implementation of electronic medical records in order to claim the incentive.
"After careful consideration of the trade-offs between the urgency with which new functionality is needed and the ability to safely deliver and to effectively use the new functionality, the HITPC recommends that -- only for those who begin to attest to MU in 2011 -- an extra year be provided to phase in the stage 2 expectations," the committee wrote in its meaningful use stage 2 recommendations letter. "We understand that despite this relatively short delay for a limited number of participants, the meaningful use requirements for stage 2 need to be robust enough to maintain progress towards the information support needed for health reform."
Among the general recommendations, the policy committee believes in making meaningful use criteria for electronic medical records that were optional under Stage 1 become required for Stage 2. Nothing of course will be official until the proposal is reviewed and the Stage 2 requirements made final.
What are Stage 1 Requirements of Meaningful Use?
Meaningful use includes a core set of objects and an additional menu set of objectives specific to professionals and eligible clinics. For professionals:
- There are a total of 25 meaningful use objectives. To meet the requirements of stage 1 and be eligible for incentive payments, 20 of those 25 objectives must be met.
- There are 15 core objectives that must be met. The remaining 5 objectives may be chosen from the list of 10 menu set objectives.
For Those Who Utilize EMR, The Incentive Payout Is There
According to official numbers from CMS, over $2.5 billion in incentive payments have been paid to successful attesters for the meaningful use EHRs. Other highlights include:
- 277 hospitals have received payments under both Medicare and Medicaid – of those, twelve were CAH;
- The Medicare program distributed $464.7 million in incentive payments to 4,997 eligible health care providers and 193 eligible hospitals; and
- States distributed $229.4 million in Medicaid incentive payments to 2,794 eligible health care providers and 230 eligible hospitals.
The policy committee, in discussing their strategy and plan for 2012 includes proposed regulations for Stage 2, HIPAA updates, and initial talks on Stage 3. While there is no set date on the release of Stage 2 regulations for electronic medical records, speculation points toward February though according to ONC officials the proposed regulations for Stage 2 and Nationwide Health Information Network (NwHIN) regulations will be released before the end of March.