CMS and ONC Propose New Timeline for EHR Incentive Program

Industry Reacts to Proposed Changes

In a joint statement from CMS and ONC last Friday, they laid out the proposal for changes to the EHR Incentive programs. They proposed “a new timeline for the implementation of meaningful use for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) proposed a more regular approach to update ONC’s certification regulations.” The timeline changes would extend stage 2 through 2016. The ONC proposals call for updating certification criteria more frequently in their HIT Certification Program. And remembering this will all happen through regulatory rules staring with NPRMs sometime in late fall of 2014.

Since stage 2 requirements are focused on health information exchange between providers and promoting patient engagement by giving patients secure online access to their health information, the CMS proposal will allow providers a better opportunity to meet these implementation goals. And with the collected data from participation in stage 2, CMS and ONC can use this to make policy decisions for stage 3.

The ONC HIT Certification 2015 Edition would take steps to allow for the criteria to be updated more frequently. It will be designed to “provide public input on policy proposals, enable our certification processes to more quickly adapt to include newer industry standards that can lead to greater interoperability, and add more predictability for EHR technology developers.” The timeline extension would also give the EHR vendors more time to meet system requirements.

So how is the industry reacting to the news?

HIMSS released a statement, HIMSS Supports Stage 2 Extension; Call to Action Still Needs to be Addressed, on Friday then updated it on Saturday. The largest health information technology group continues to support the federal initiatives while calling for further considerations moving forward.

The College of Healthcare Information Management Exectutives (CHIME) released a statement on Friday, Meaningful Use Timeline Shift Does Not Afford Flexibility in 2014. Their position stands that the timeline proposal “does not change front-end requirements for Meaningful Use in 2014 and does not afford much needed flexibility to providers working to install and upgrade new technology.”

We look to our “go-to” people when we want to understand all this. Dr. John Halamka immediately posted Friday, Meaningful Use and Certification Improvements, on his blog Life as a Healthcare CIO. Brian Ahier posted, Timeline Changes for Meaningful Use on his site Advanced Health Information Exchange Resources.

Tom Sullivan, editor of Government Health IT gets quotes from the industry in his Friday coverage on the news, CMS, ONC go for meaningful use delay. Director of Sharp Health in San Diego, Elizabeth Renfree, calls the additional time helpful. And Erin McCann, Contributing Editor at Government Health IT gets more quotes from hospital leaders, including Halamka, on what it means to them in her post, Stage 2 proposed delay gets mixed reviews.

While the initial reaction appears mixed none are against it. All seem for the extension but some want to make even more changes. Well good news for them, they have almost a year to lobby for those before the proposed rules come out for comment.