CMS proposes shorter meaningful use reporting periods

April 23, 2015
AOA will continue to support changes to ease burden on doctors of optometry

AOA has been fighting to improve Medicare requirements for meaningful use of electronic heath records (EHR). A new federal proposal indicates that regulators have listened to optometry's concerns by shortening reporting periods and simplifying the reporting process for 2015 and beyond.

"We all welcome the 90-day reporting period, as it will give most users the time needed to implement changes."

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on April 10 issued a proposed rule to better align the various stages of the meaningful use program. Due to the likely implementation of this proposed rule, AOA is alerting its members to pay attention to these key changes.

AOA to support 90-day reporting period

In the most significant change, CMS is proposing to shorten the electronic health record reporting period from a 12-month period to 90 continuous days in 2015.

Under this provision, all eligible physicians in 2015 can attest to meaningful use for any continuous 90-day period this year, despite whether they previously participated in the incentives program. The 90-day period also applies to physicians who start the meaningful use program for the first time in 2016.

"We all welcome the 90-day reporting period, as it will give most users the time needed to implement changes in their practice routines to achieve meaningful use," says Charles Fitzpatrick, O.D., a New Jersey-based optometrist who chairs his state's Third Party Benefit Center Committee.

AOA has been pushing for reasonable changes in the meaningful use program that would allow optometrists to use EHRs in practical ways that benefit their patients. AOA strongly supports CMS's proposed change to a 90-day reporting period, and other important changes to improve the program's flexibility.

Simplifying the reporting process

Other proposed modifications seek to help physicians comply with the program by removing certain measures and objectives to help streamline reporting. Specifically, CMS is proposing to reduce the number of Stage 1 objectives from 18 to 10, and Stage 2 requirements from 20 to 10.

Measures and objectives proposed for elimination includes the calculation of performance on reporting on demographics, vital signs, smoking status, family health history, electronic notes, and patient reminders, according to Dr. Fitzpatrick. Such measures have been identified as redundant, duplicative or no longer relevant.

CMS is also seeking to modify patient engagement measures in Stage 2 meaningful use objectives. As an example, one measure that required 5% of a physician's population to use secure messaging to communicate with the physician has been changed significantly.

This objective—which had relied on patient action following an encounter with the physician—had been difficult to meet, Dr. Fitzpatrick says. "Many patients simply lacked the motivation, technical savvy or access to secure messaging technology to meet the objective."

Now, physicians will only need to demonstrate that the capability for patients to send and receive a secure electronic message was fully enabled.

CMS is also ratcheting down the number of patients required to view, download or transmit their health information to a third party from 5% of patients in a physician's practice to just one patient.

AOA expects the final regulations to be published by the end of the summer with these proposed changes in place. To learn more about AOA advocacy to improve meaningful use, contact Kara Webb, the AOA's associate director for coding and regulatory policy.

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