CMS Releases New EHR Rules

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently released the final rule on Electronic Health Records (EHR) Meaningful Use Stage 2. Physicians can earn the maximum EHR incentives by meeting meaningful use for five consecutive years under the Medicare program. (Medicaid is a six-year program, and the years do not have to be consecutive.) 

TMA fought to make the new rule simpler and more physician friendly. Now that it is in place, we're here to help you get your bonus payments as easily as possible. 

 The earliest time frame that an eligible physician can start reporting for Stage 2 is 2014. The actual time period depends on when the physician started Stage 1. Each eligible physician will report at least two years for Stage 1, then two years for Stage 2, according to the current schedule.   

In 2014, the reporting period has been reduced to three months to allow physicians time to adopt 2014 certified EHR technology and prepare for stage 2; all participants will have a three-month reporting period in 2014 regardless of which stage they are reporting.   

Each stage of meaningful use becomes more complex. The time frames for Stage 2 are tighter, and the standards are higher for the measures that were part of Stage 1. For example, in Stage 1, physicians had three days to get patients their clinical summaries; the new rules reduced that to one day. A new Stage 2 rule for physicians requires them to electronically communicate at least one time with 5 percent of their patients. During the comment period, TMA opposed this measure, which CMS originally set at 10 percent.  

Stage 2 now has six menu (optional) objectives, of which physicians must select and meet three. Five of the menu measures are new. CMS prepared a summary that compares Stage 1 and Stage 2. 

To help physicians, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology established regional extension centers (RECs) to provide onsite health information technology (HIT) consulting in physician practices. The RECs receive grant funding to subsidize the consulting costs for primary care physicians. RECs can assist specialists but not at the subsidized rate.  

For questions about eligibility and REC services, visit the REC Resource Center on the TMA website. For questions about meaningful use or other HIT issues, contact TMA's HIT Department by telephone at (800) 880-5720 or by email; or visit the TMA website. 

Action, Sept. 17, 2012