Final EHR rule provides more flexibility, but does it go far enough?

Final EHR rule provides more flexibility, but does it go far enough?

Revised Medicare regulations fail to adequately address the AOA's longtime request for more flexibility in electronic health record (EHR) programs. The AOA states the changes don't go far enough to assist most users of certified EHRs. 

On Aug. 29, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published a final rule that offers slightly more flexibility in achieving meaningful use requirements for 2014's reporting period.

The rule only assists physicians who, through no fault of their own, haven't been able to fully implement 2014 Edition certified electronic health record technology (CEHRT). An "edition" of certified EHR technology dictates the stage and version of meaningful use objectives and measures a provider will be able to meet.  

Under the final rule, these physicians now have the option of using either the 2011 Edition CEHRT or a combination of both the 2011 and 2014 editions for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs. Using just the 2014 CEHRT to meet program requirements is another option.

In a chart, CMS outlines the various options available to this subset of providers for meeting required standards to demonstrate meaningful use.

In another minor change, CMS extended deadlines for Stage 2 and 3 of meaningful use through 2016 and 2017, respectively, for providers who began the program in 2011 or 2012.

AOA: Changes should have applied to all users
Extending the deadlines for Stage 2 and 3 "was a long-anticipated change that makes sense, given the expectations on EHR vendors and providers to increase their performance to more stringent standards," observes Scott Jens, O.D., CEO of RevolutionEHR, a cloud-based EHR designed for ODs. 

While the AOA generally supports these changes, its position is that such flexibility should have been extended to all users of CEHRT—not just to those who had difficulty adopting the 2014 standards. 

Many of the EHR vendors that serve the optometric community successfully made the transition to 2014 CEHRT on schedule. As a result, only a limited number of ODs may end up having to use the additional options provided by CMS.

September 5, 2014

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