Confused about the 2014 EHR certification hardship exemption? AOA offers clarification

Confused about the EHR certification hardship exemption? AOA offers clarification

Do you qualify for an exemption from the 2015 Medicare Payment Adjustment for the EHR incentive program? The answer may be yes, if your vendor was unable to deliver 2014 certified software in time.

The changing regulations caused confusion among some optometrists.

Revised Medicare regulations issued in September sought to offer more flexibility for achieving meaningful use (MU) requirements for 2014's reporting period under the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Care Records Incentive Programs, though the AOA pushed for more flexibility.

The changing regulations caused confusion among some optometrists who may have experienced difficulties in participating in the EHR Incentive Program–and believe they qualify for a hardship exemption relating to availability of 2014 certified software.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has made it very clear "that the hardship exemption can only be made by a provider who is in the EHR Incentive Program who due to vendor-related issues has been unable to implement their 2014 Certified EHR Technology (CEHRT)," says Scott Jens, O.D., CEO and co-founder of RevolutionEHR, a cloud-based EHR designed for ODs.

This may be due to issues related to software development, certification, implementation, testing, or release that are the fault of the vendor, Dr. Jens says.

When the exemption does not apply
CMS will not allow exemptions "due to the provider's own perceived financial issues, difficulty in meeting Stage 2 MU measures, staffing issues, or provider delays in obtaining and implementing the 2014 CEHRT," Dr. Jens explains.

At this point in time, most vendors have made their 2014 certified versions available. This makes it difficult for ODs to meet the hardship exemption, Dr. Jens says. For example, RevolutionEHR's 2014 version was initially released on March 31, "allowing our customers to perform Stage 2 MU in any of the final three quarters of the 2014 calendar year," he says.

It is fairly straightforward to self-attest for an exemption. According to the AOA, ODs should be aware that those who participate in the EHR incentive program might be audited to ensure they successfully met program requirements. Those who apply for the exemption should thoroughly document the information that supports their decision to seek the exemption.

Hardship exemption forms are due by Nov. 30.

The AOA acknowledges that Stage 2's requirements are more stringent than Stage 1 and continues to advocate for more flexibility in the meaningful use program. As an example, the AOA thought the flexibility changes in September's final rule should have been extended to all users of certified EHRs–not just those who had difficulty adopting standards in this year's reporting period.

For more information, ODs can listen to a recent provider call CMS held on the 2014 Certified EHR Technology Flexibility Rule.

November 25, 2014

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