CMS extends hospital 2014 meaningful use reporting deadline

On Nov. 23, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced that both eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals now have until Dec. 31 to apply for meaningful use attestation for the Medicare EHR Incentive Program 2014 reporting year. The extension leaves hospitals an extra month, stretching the original deadline for Nov. 30. 

Why was there an extension?
While the move could help eligible hospitals and CAHs that are looking to avoid 2016 payment adjustments for Medicare-eligible hospitals after failing to demonstrate meaningful use in 2014, it still does not address several concerns from other agencies that have been discussed in recent months.

The CMS has extended the deadline for all eligible hospitals to allow them much-needed extra time to submit their meaningful use data and receive an incentive payment for the 2014 reporting year. There were many hospitals in danger of a 2016 payment adjustment before the extension. 

The federal agency is also moving the deadline for eligible hospitals and CAHs that meet the requirements of meaningful use and the Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting program by electronically submitting clinical quality measures. Hospitals sending in their eCQM data through Quality Net also have until Dec. 31, 2014, according to Health Data Management.

As of Nov. 1, only 1,903 eligible hospitals had attested for the 2014 reporting period, making this extension very important, according to Fierce EMR. However, the CMS has emphasized the fact that the new extension will not affect the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program. 

Despite the help the extension will give to hospitals, many organizations believe that the tendency of the CMS to change set deadlines only has negative impacts on providers and hospitals. 

"This design creates additional administrative burden – physicians must implement different workflows for different patients and engage in extensive tracking to ensure measures and thresholds are met," wrote the American Medical Association in a letter to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner and Karen DeSalvo, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, according to Health Security. "We believe that setting arbitrary thresholds is of little help to physicians and may lead to inconsistencies in the care provided to patients."

CMS provides guidance as part of extension
The CMS released tips for hospitals attesting within the extension period. Hospitals and CAHs will attest through the Registration and Attestation System, which is currently fully functional. It also includes the 2014 Certified EHR Technology Flexibility Rule options, according to EHR Intelligence.

To make attestation simpler, the federal organization suggested logging onto the system during the evenings or weekends, as most hospitals attest at some point in the day. This will make the process faster for hospitals. 

Hospitals can also check their information in the attestation system now to ensure it is up to date. They can also start to put in their 2014 data. If any problems arise, the best thing to do is alert the EHR Incentive Program Desk to let them know there is an issue. 

Although this one-month extension is likely to lend a helping hand to eligible hospitals and CAHs, it still does not make any move to cut the 2015 reporting period from one year to a single quarter as many industry stakeholders have requested.