On January 29, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it intends to update the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs. CMS also intends to shorten the meaningful-use reporting period, align it with the calendar year, and generally adjust meaningful use software and programs for long-term goals.
Since the incentive programs were launched in 2011, more than 400,000 providers have adopted electronic health records. While these developments resulted in more efficient practices and better communication between patients and providers, many health care professionals have been lobbying for certain adjustments, including a shortened reporting period. Currently, providers must complete meaningful use reporting for a full year. Advocates for change noted CMS data revealing that in 2014, only 4 percent of physicians and less than 35 percent of hospitals were able to meet the Stage 2 meaningful use requirements.
Although some question the validity of complaints about Stage 2’s rigidness, organizations like the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, the Medical Group Management Association,and the American Medical Association also called for changes in the time allotted, and claimed that the existing reporting requirements did not help physicians improve their care of patients.
The issue was also taken up by Congress, as Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) and 29 other Republicans from the House had sent a letter to Sylvia Matthews Burwell asking for modifications to the length of reporting periods. Former Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) had also teamed up with Ellmers on a piece of bipartisan legislation, the Flexibility in Health IT Reporting (Flex-IT) Act of 2015, which would allow providers to choose a three-month quarter as an EHR reporting period instead of a full year.
In their announcement, the CMS reinforced their commitment to a meaningful use system that “elevates patient-centered care, improves health outcomes and supports the providers who care for patients.”