CMS Proposes to Let Docs Use Older EHRs in Incentive Program

May 20, 2014

In another victory for organized medicine, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed today to let physicians in its "meaningful use" incentive program for electronic health record (EHR) systems use Stage 1 technology to satisfy Stage 2 requirements in 2014.

The proposal also would allow some physicians to achieve Stage 2 meaningful use in 2014 using Stage 1 objectives and measures for patient care.

The American Medical Association and other medical societies have hounded CMS to slow down the pace of its incentive program, warning that droves of participating physicians will drop out if they aren't given more time to adjust to changing standards.

Case in point is the debut of Stage 2 meaningful-use requirements that participants must meet in 2014 if they have earned bonuses in the program for at least 2 prior years under Stage 1. To comply, physicians must attest, among other things, to using a so-called 2014 edition of a certified EHR system designed for Stage 2. This is a step up from 2011 certified editions designed for Stage 1 of the program. Yet software vendors have been slow to roll out 2014-edition systems, sparking fears that many physicians will flunk meaningful use this year and incur a Medicare penalty.

Today's proposal would allow physicians to use a 2011 system, a combination of 2011 and 2014 systems, or a 2014 system by itself to meet either Stage 1 or Stage 2 requirements, depending on when they began participating in the program.

In addition, physicians pursuing Stage 2 meaningful use this year who are unable to fully implement a 2014 EHR system due to vendor tardiness would get another break. They could elect to meet Stage 1 objectives and measures, which are less stringent than those in Stage 2.

Meaningful-use requirements will become even more demanding in Stage 3 of the program. CMS said today that its proposed regulations would formalize an earlier decision to delay Stage 3 until 2017.

More information on today's announcement is available on the CMS Web site.

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