EHR certification relief on the way

May 20, 2014 in Medical Technology

Healthcare providers and the IT vendors just got a dose of welcome relief from the increasingly controversial certification pieces of meaningful use in the form of a proposed rule the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT jointly circulated on Tuesday.

The rule would “change the meaningful use timeline and the definition of certified electronic health record technology (CEHRT),” the agencies wrote.It would also change the requirements for reporting clinical quality measures for 2014.

[See also: EHR certification criteria under fire.]

The relief appears to be arriving none too soon.

“Vendors aren’t ready, no subject matter experts are available to implement upgrades,” said Mandi Bishop, president of FloriDATA Foundation, and a self-described hardcore data geek and patient engagement advocate. “Products aren’t fully-baked. Providers are frustrated.”

Just last week at an HIT Policy Committee workgroup certifying bodies, healthcare providers, and vendors alike — expressed fears and frustration over the complexity of Stage 2 and complained about the lack of guidance from ONC.

[See also: Fear and loathing in meaningful use.]

The proposed rule would “provide eligible professionals, eligible hospitals, and critical access hospitals more flexibility in how they use certified electronic health record technology to meet meaningful use,” the agencies explained, by letting “providers use the 2011 Edition CEHRT or a combination of 2011 and 2014 Edition CEHRT for the EHR reporting period in 2014.”

Reacting to industry group and vendor comments, public forums and listening sessions, the agencies acknowledged that the time between the final Stage 2 rule and the certification deadline was impracticably short.

“We understand, based on information gained from EHR technology developers and ONC-Authorized Certification Bodies on timing, backlogs, and the certification case load, many EHR products were certified later than anticipated, which has impacted the corresponding time available to providers — especially hospitals — to effectively deploy 2014 Edition CEHRT and to make the necessary patient safety, staff training, and workflow investments in order to demonstrate meaningful use in 2014,” CMS and ONC wrote. 

CMS and ONC also incorporated a provision into the proposed rule to formally extend Stage 2 through 2016 and start Stage 3 in 2017. 

Pundits and industry associations have been calling for changes to the meaningful use timelines and requirements for months now and dire predictions have arisen recently suggesting many providers would opt out of Stage 2.

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