Certified EHR Technology Rules Proposed by HHS

Recent data from the annual National Ambulatory Medical Care survey found nearly 80 percent of office-based physicians used some type of EHR system.

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The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published a proposed rule that would provide eligible professionals, eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals more flexibility in how they use certified electronic health record technology (CEHRT) to meet meaningful use regulations.

The proposed rule would let providers use the 2011 Edition CEHRT or a combination of 2011 and 2014 Edition CEHRT for the EHR reporting period in 2014 for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs.

The proposal comes from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).

"Increasing the adoption of EHRs is key to improving the nation’s health care system, and the steps we are taking today will give new options to those who, through no fault of their own, have been unable to get the new 2014 Edition technology, including those at high risk, such as smaller providers and rural hospitals," Karen DeSalvo, national coordinator for health information technology, said in a statement.

Starting next year, all eligible hospitals and professionals would still be required to report using 2014 Edition CEHRT. The HHS noted that since the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs began in 2011, more than 370,000 hospitals and professionals nationwide have received an incentive payment.

Recent data from the annual National Ambulatory Medical Care survey found nearly 80 percent of office-based physicians used some type of EHR system, an increase of 60 percentage points since 2001.

This is also nearly double the percent in 2008 (42 percent), the year before the Health Information Technology and Economic and Clinical Health Act passed as part of the Recovery Act in 2009.

The report also noted that 13 percent of physicians who responded said they both intended to participate in the incentive program and had a system that could support 14 of the Meaningful Use Stage 2 "core set of objectives," ahead of target dates.

The proposed rule also includes a provision that would formalize CMS and ONC’s previously stated intention to extend Stage 2 through 2016 and begin Stage 3 in 2017, changes designed to address concerns raised by stakeholders and to encourage the continued adoption of Certified EHR Technology.

"We have seen tremendous participation in the EHR Incentive Programs since they began," CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner said in a statement. "By extending Stage 2, we are being receptive to stakeholder feedback to ensure providers can continue to meet meaningful use and keep momentum moving forward."

In 2013, Meaningful Use related functionalities with the highest adoption rates included capabilities for recording key patient health information and functionalities related to medication management and safety. About three-quarters or more of physicians had these types of computerized capabilities, the survey found.