The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) together with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), have released the Meaningful Use Stage 3 Final Rules. Now begins a 60-day commenting period.
The release of the Meaningful Use Stage 3 Final Rules has taken some time. Following the release of the draft version earlier this year, the CMS had to review over 2,500 comments collected from medical organizations and healthcare professionals. A number of medical organizations criticized the draft rules, in particular the tough reporting requirements. Fortunately, those comments have been taken on board and healthcare providers have now been offered a simplified set of rules and have been given greater flexibility with an easing of reporting requirements.
Participating organizations and physicians have been offered a 90-day reporting period for 2015, with the same 90-day period offered to new participants joining the incentive scheme in 2016/2017, along with those moving from stage 2 to stage 3 in 2017.
The Meaningful Use Stage 3 Final Rules should ease the administrative burden on participants, giving them a little more time to comply with the program’s requirements. Compliance will not be mandatory until January 1, 2018.
Participants in the program therefore have more time to implement the necessary technology and policies that will be required in order to achieve compliance. However, the new rules require greater efforts to be made to improve interoperability: Obstacles must be removed which are hindering the sharing of health information with patients and between healthcare providers.
A number of changes have been made by the CMS which apply to Stage 2 of the Meaningful Use Program and new provisions have been added for Meaningful Use Stage 3. Both stages of the incentive program now have a reduced set of objectives, which should make it easier for hospitals and medical professionals to comply.
Stage 2 now has 10 objectives for participating medical professionals, while hospitals will need to comply with 9 objectives: A reduction from the 18 and 20 objectives (respectively) from the previous stage of the program. Hospitals and medical professionals will have to comply with one public health reporting objective.
There are 8 Stage 3 objectives which will apply to Critical Access Hospitals, other eligible hospitals, and medical professionals. There will similarly be public health and CQM reporting requirements, and the program will place greater emphasis on interoperability, requiring greater health information exchange functions to be incorporated.
As announced earlier this year by the HHS, there is to be a change to the model of Medicare/Medicaid payments which will place greater emphasis on quality over quantity, the main aim of which is to get healthcare providers to engage patients and empower them to make their own healthcare decisions. Under the Meaningful Use Stage 3 Finals Rules, Application Implementation Interfaces (APIs) will also be required to be developed to improve patient data access and assist with achieving this goal.
By 2018, when compliance with the new rules will become mandatory, all participants in the program will be required to have implemented EHR technology certified to the 2015 edition.