Proposed Rule for Stage 3 Meaningful Use Submitted

HHS has submitted a proposed rule for stage 3 of meaningful use for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, which includes changes to the reporting period, timelines, and structure of the program.

HHS has submitted a proposed rule for stage 3 meaningful use for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs. Stage 3, which will not begin until 2017, will focus on improving healthcare outcomes and advancing interoperability, according to the proposed rule.

The rule, submitted to the Office of Management and Budget at the end of 2014, specifies applicable criteria that eligible professionals, eligible hospitals, and critical access hospitals participating in the Medicare and Medicaid incentive programs must meet in order to demonstrate meaningful use during stage 3.

The full proposed rules will be posted in Federal Register once the Office of Budget and Management completes its review. According to the submitted proposal, stage 3 will propose changes to the reporting period, timelines, and structure of the program in an effort to provide “a flexible, yet, clearer framework” to ensure the sustainability of the EHR program.

“We are working with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology [ONC] to ensure that the Stage 3 meaningful use definition coordinates with the standards and certification requirements being proposed and that there is sufficient time to upgrade and implement these changes,” according to the proposal. “Stage 2 has been extended so that Stage 3 will not begin until 2017.”

Some medical associations have been calling for changes to the program that would provide greater flexibility for providers and hospitals, particularly after CMS announced that more than half of eligible professionals would be penalized for failing to meet meaningful use requirements.

The American Medical Association (AMA) wrote to CMS and ONC in October and recommended that Stage 3 include just 10 required measures and no financial penalties for physicians who meet at least half of the requirements. In addition, a more flexible approach would allow more physicians to successfully participate in the program, the AMA reasoned.

"The whole point of the EHR incentive program was to build an interoperable health information technology infrastructure that would allow for the routine exchange of important medical information across settings and providers and put medical decision-making tools in the hands of physicians and patients, yet that vision is not being realized and the lack of interoperability is stifling quality improvement," AMA President Robert M. Wah, MD, had said in a statement at the time.