Will there be a delay for the stage 3 MU requirements?

Will there be a delay to stage 3 MU deadline?

The stage 3 meaningful use standards have been underway for many months now, with several organizations like the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives reaching out to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services with suggestions. With high-quality certified electronic health record systems, providers are able to work toward meeting the current meaningful use standards.

However, many physicians have experienced difficulty adhering to the stage 1 and 2 requirements due to their inability to meet certain rules like getting enough of their patients to use their systems' portals. Many of them claim that the requirements are unattainable as a result. This has sparked an urgency among the health care industry to ensure that the stage 3 standards are going to be more flexible and easier to meet than past requirements. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions is now among one of the many organizations asking for a delay of the new rules to make sure they are up to par. 

HELP committee suggests stage 3 MU delay
The chairman of the Senate HELP committee, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., has asked that the CMS consider delaying the stage 3 rules until Jan. 1, 2017, instead of the original 2016 implementation date.

"Patients need an interoperable system that enables doctors and hospitals to share their electronic health records, but the government, doctors and hospitals need time to do it right," Alexander stated in a hearing Wednesday, according to EHR Intelligence. "Some hospitals have told me they are 'terrified' by the prospect of stage three. It does not help patients to make these massive changes fast and wrong. It does help patients to do this deliberately and correctly so that hospitals and doctors embrace the changes instead of dread them."

The Office of Management and Budget recently reviewed the plans suggested by the Department of Health and Human Services and the CMS. The outline included how the organizations were going to establish the meaningful use requirements over the next couple of years and the specific standards they planned to implement.

These include the reporting periods that will be more aligned with the calendar year for all providers and the 90-day reporting period for eligible hospitals and providers. This is a transition for hospitals, as eligible health professionals had previously been responsible for reporting in accordance to the calendar year, but hospitals reported based off of the fiscal year. As a lot of the measures they are reporting on have become redundant, the need for the reporting change has become essential, according to the OMB. 

Complexity of stage 2 requirements sparks concern
If the new reporting period is so favored by providers and the rules are meant to enhance the reporting process, why is the HELP committee asking for a delay? The group explained that it is the difficulty many health professionals are experiencing while striving to meet the stage 2 meaningful use requirements that has caused the committee to become concerned.

"Our senate health committee has held five hearings on this electronic health records program," Alexander said. "Many of those who testified have urged us to delay making final these stage three requirements in order to really help patients. I look forward to working with Senator Murray, Secretary Burwell and other members of the administration on finding the best ways to modify this program and these requirements."

In addition to calling for changes to the stage 3 meaningful use requirements, Alexander suggested that the stage 2 requirements are modified to better cater to the needs of providers. He also recommended that the stage 3 standards are introduced in phases so that the government and health professionals can see more clearly how effective the new program is being implemented.