CMS Pushes EHR Meaningful Use Deadline Back One Year: What it Means For You

Meaningful_UseElectronic health records (EHRs) are designed to help improve the efficiency and transparency of healthcare providers, and increase communication between all parties involved in healthcare. The Centers For Medicare & Medicaid Servces, or CMS, has set deadlines for healthcare providers to show meaningful use of these EHRs, divided up into stages. On December 6, CMS extended the deadline for providers to meet the requirements for Stage 2.

Stage 2 EHR Meaningful Use For Healthcare Providers

Before the extension, healthcare offices had until February 28, 2015 to show a three-month reporting period in which they meet  the 17 core objectives for meaningful use and 3 out of 6 different menu objectives, for a total of 20 objectives that show advancement in meaningful use. Now that the deadline has been extended through 2016, healthcare offices have extra time to get their EHR software updated and in compliance with these objectives. While many in the industry are glad that these deadlines have been extended, there are still reservations amongst both healthcare providers and leading figures in healthcare information technology about exactly how much help this extension to EHR implementation will provide.

The Benefits Of The Stage 2 EHR Meaningful Use Extension

With additional time for EHR implementation, healthcare offices can reduce some of the time crunch that they may be feeling about implementing the stage two requirements. Many healthcare providers may have to convert or upgrade older systems in order to be in compliance with the new MU stage 2 guidelines. In addition, vendors of the healthcare software products are trying to get their products certified under Stage 2 guidelines and then distribute these products to their customers. Because the postponement of the Stage 2 deadline has correspondingly pushed back the start date of Stage 3 to 2017, healthcare offices will also have additional time to get ready for this phase, which is the final phase of EHR implementation that is designed to show improved outcomes of patient care.

Problems With The Stage 2 EHR Meaningful Use Extension

One of the biggest points of contention in regards to the extension of the Stage 2 deadline is that it has no impact on the start date of this phase of meaningful use. Providers that received incentive payments for two years of Stage 1 are still required to get started on Stage 2 in 2014. There will still be a 1% cut in federal incentives for healthcare providers that have received payments for Stage 1 that do not meet program requirements by 2015.

Another major challenge being pointed out by healthcare leaders is that Stage 2 of EHR meaningful use is taking place as many offices are also trying to prepare for the switch to the ICD-10 system of coding. Russ Branzell, CEO of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, calls the situation “a perfect storm” and says that “providers are near a breaking point” because of the simultaneous need to adapt to updated laws relating to the Affordable Care Act, the switch to ICD-10 coding, and the requirements for Stage 2 of EHR meaningful use.

2014 is set to be a big year in the world of health care. All kinds of medical offices and hospitals should be keeping a close eye on the news so that they can determine how the latest government announcements and decisions will impact their day-to-day practice. Be sure to keep up with the Healthcare Information Services blog so that you can learn about pressing issues that affect your medical reimbursement.