Major health care organizations respond to stage 3 MU ruling

The proposed stage 3 meaningful use standards issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have been opened for public comment and have received a sea of feedback from organizations throughout the health care industry. The goal of the new requirements is to provide eligible hospitals and health professionals that participate in the EHR Incentive Programs with more flexibility with reporting dates and to increase the interoperability of electronic health records. 

CHIME urges CMS to shorten reporting period
Many of the industry's largest organizations have responded to the eight objectives highlighted in the draft, showing a mix of support and frustration. One statement released by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives comments on the CMS's meaningful use rule and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology's certification rule. Although the organization announced its support for the new flexibility as a part of the MU objectives, it is concerned with the industry's goal to bring all Medicare providers together with one single MU rule in 2018. However, it added that the idea of a simplified and more direct MU ruling is promising if it can be achieved successfully. 

The CHIME also noted that it, along with other stakeholders, has played a major role in the EHR Incentive Programs over the years and that the potential of meaningful use standards to enhance the country's health care system has become clear. The association hopes that the stage 3 objectives will assist providers in increasing their practices' IT adoption to improve care coordination, interoperability and patient engagement.

However, the CHIME feels that there are still flexibility issues with the 2015 EHR reporting period and has asked that the CMS consider possible revisions. Once there have been additional policy alterations made to the stage 3 MU regulations, they will be more efficient at enhancing the quality of care across the industry.

"We do, however, urge CMS to quickly publish the proposed rule alluded to in Dr. Conway's January 29 announcement. We were encouraged by the signals to shorten the 2015 EHR reporting period from 365 to 90 days and make other program improvements through a follow-on rule. We call on CMS to propose policy changes to the 'all-or-nothing' construct, lengthen timing between required Stage upgrades, and consider much-needed revisions to the hardship exception categories. These changes will enable far better participation among providers, which will in turn, keep them on a path toward improved care through health IT," the announcement read. 

ACC supports CHIME statement
In addition to the statement from the CHIME, there was one released from the American College of Cardiology President Kim Allan Williams, M.D., on the organization's reaction to the proposed ruling. It called attention to its long-term support of EHR adoption. However, the most recent regulations implemented by the EHR Incentive Programs have been more about "checking the box" instead of improving care delivery to achieve better patient care.

Williams also noted that the ACC is worried by the new rule that requires all physicians to report to a full calendar year. This is an issue for first-time participants who will find that it takes time to implement an EHR system. As seen from the CHIME's statement, the ACC is not the only organization in the industry that finds the EHR reporting period of a full calendar year a major problem, and many have asked the CMS to revise it to a 90-day period.

AHA announces concern over unaddressed medical problems
The American Hospital Association responded to the new stage 3 MU objectives by stating its concern that the multiple issues being faced in the medical industry have been ignored due to the focus on advancing meaningful use for health IT.

Linda E. Fishman, senior vice president of public policy analysis and development at AHA, explained that the new ruling issued by the CMS shows that the federal agency is primarily concerned with creating policies with goals for the future instead of seeing to the problems that the industry is presently facing. For example, instead of providing flexibility for providers during the 2015 reporting year, the CMS responded with a whole new set of meaningful use requirements that will only increase the burden placed on providers. Fishman pointed out that the 35 percent of hospitals and the similar number of physicians that have met stage 2 meaningful use regulations should have prevented the CMS from developing stage 3 requirements.

The AHA joins other major organizations within the industry in urging the CMS to create more flexible rules for 2015. Hospitals throughout the country may be supportive when it comes to EHR adoption, but before they can confidently continue to invest in more health IT, the issues currently faced by providers and hospitals need to be addressed. This is the only way that care quality can be improved.