CMS releases 2015 EHR edition certification criteria

According to the Journal of the American Health Information Management Association, in addition to the stage 3 meaningful use criteria, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have released this year's EHR certification criteria. The stage 3 MU ruling emphasized the fact that all eligible providers and hospitals will have to adhere to the new requirements by 2018 or they will have to file hardship exemptions.

What are the goals of the 2015 EHR edition certification criteria?
The current payment reductions for health professionals who do not meet meaningful use requirements were not changed in the new stage 3 ruling. The publication of the eight objectives under stage 3 MU came alongside the CMS's disclosure of the 2015 Health IT Certification Criteria. 

The CMS is currently considering a revision of one stage 3 MU objective in particular. Many of the industry's largest organizations have complained about the current full year EHR reporting calendar, which has proven to be a major issue for many providers. Convincing the agency to shorten the reporting period to 90 days is the aim for many health care associations.

There are a few rules in the criteria that professionals may find difficult to accomplish. However, the underlying goals of the EHR Incentive Programs – to establish health information exchange and improve interoperability – are vital to the industry's progress. For example, one objective requires that hospitals are able to send electronic notifications to a patient's primary provider, or any other care teams seen by the patient, concerning any health-related updates or occurrences.

"ONC's proposed rule will be an integral component in the shared nationwide effort to achieve an interoperable health system," Karen DeSalvo, M.D., national coordinator for health IT, said in a public statement. "The certification criteria we have proposed in the 2015 Edition will help achieve that vision through provisions that consider the range of health IT users and uses across the care continuum, including those focused on interoperable standards, data portability, improved transparency, privacy and security capabilities, and increased oversight through ONC's Health IT Certification Program."

CMS pushes interoperability 
Stage 3 meaningful use states that providers must engage 25 percent of their patients in viewing, sharing and downloading health records. This is a significant jump from the 5 percent that was required for stage 2 MU. This is a part of the federal agency's push to increase interoperability for health IT systems across the industry. 

"Building on past rulemakings, this proposed rule further identifies how health IT certification can support the establishment of an interoperable nationwide health information infrastructure," according to the rule.

Secure messaging tools must also be used by this 25 percent of patients to interact with their doctors. The rule suggests that physicians use a third-party interface when gathering this information. It also recommends adjustments to information exchange. Providers must also use the Health Level 7 exchange standard Consolidated Clinical Document Architecture and exchange data through application programming interface capabilities.

New requirement for patient demographics 
Providers will have to begin recording patient demographics within their EHR system as an integral part of the stage 3 meaningful use regulations. The factors that should be included in hospital records are ethnicity, birth date, race, preferred language, sexual orientation, disability status, gender, occupation and preferred method of communication. Having this data on hand within the system will enhance diagnoses and overall care quality.

To obtain this electronic patient-generated medical information, the MU ruling also noted that there should be a questionnaire, survey or a messaging system within the EHR system. As many patients rely on mobile applications to keep track of their health and communicate with their physicians, the CMS added that patient-generated data retrieved through mobile technologies will also be acceptable.