Mass. Finalizes EHR Proficiency Regulations for License Renewals

December 29, 2014 in News

The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine has adopted new regulations that implement a provision of a state law requiring doctors to demonstrate meaningful use of electronic health record systems as a condition of maintaining their medical licenses, Health Data Management reports.

Under the 2009 federal economic stimulus package, health care providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR systems can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments (Slabodkin, Health Data Management, 12/29).

Background

The provision is part of a larger state law aimed at addressing health care costs and transparency that is scheduled to take effect in 2015. The provision requires health care providers applying to the state’s medical board for licensure to demonstrate proficiency in using several forms of health IT, including:

  • Computerized provider order entry;
  • EHRs; and
  • Electronic prescribing.

According to the provision, proficiency — at a minimum — means providers must demonstrate the skills used to comply with the federal meaningful use incentive program.

In May, the Massachusetts House in its fiscal year 2015 budget proposal recommended relaxing the requirement so that doctors only must show that they are familiar with the use of EHR systems for patient care (iHealthBeat, 5/15).

Details of Finalized Regulations

Under the final regulations, state providers who want to renew their medical licenses will be required to meet at least one of several criteria to prove they can use an EHR system to provide quality care. The modifications are intended to give providers more flexibility, according to EHR Intelligence (Bresnick, EHR Intelligence, 12/23).

Specifically, providers must:

  • Complete a minimum of three hours of accredited continuing medical education training on EHRs that covers the meaningful use program’s menu set and core objectives and clinical quality measures;
  • Have a relationship with a hospital that has been certified as a program participant, either by being employed by the hospital, being credentialed by the hospital or holding a “contractual agreement” with the facility;
  • Participate in the Massachusetts Health Information Highway, the state’s health information exchange; or
  • Participate in the meaningful use program as an eligible provider (Health Data Management, 12/29).

However, providers who renew their medical licenses before March 31, 2015, will receive a one-time exemption from the requirements. In addition, physicians who are scheduled to renew their licenses within 60 days of the end of March can qualify for the exemption by submitting their applications early.

The regulations include additional exemptions for providers in the case that they are:

  • Applying for limited licenses as interns or medical residents;
  • Applying for licenses but are not actively practicing; or
  • Called up during a national emergency or crisis while on active duty in the National Guard.

In certain cases, providers also can apply for a 90-day “undue hardship” exemption (EHR Intelligence, 12/23).

The regulations are scheduled to take effect Jan. 2, 2015 (Health Data Management, 12/29).

Massachusetts Medical Society Reaction

In a blog post, Massachusetts Medical Society President Richard Pieters, said his organization “believes that [EHRs] have enormous potential for patient care.” He added, “We are grateful that the Board of Registration in Medicine has taken a reasonable approach on this issue” (EHR Intelligence, 12/23).

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