healthcareitOn March 20, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued two proposed rules intended to improve the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs.

The HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published the long-awaited Stage 3 proposed rule, which specifies eight meaningful use criteria that must be met in order to qualify for EHR incentive payments and avoid downward payment adjustments. Stage 3 is expected to be the final stage of the meaningful use program.

In addition, the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) issued the 2015 Edition Health Information Technology (Health IT) Certification Criteria, which intended to enhance the sharing of electronic health information and to improve patient safety.

In a fact sheet, the ONC stated that the proposed rules “focus on making the EHR Incentive programs more flexible, simplifying and reducing [the] burden of providers participating in the program, driving the interoperability of health IT across systems and between providers, and improving patient outcomes.”

The CMS Stage 3 rule proposes transitioning the program to a single stage for meaningful use, and establishing a calendar year reporting period. Stage 3 attestation would be optional in 2017 and required by 2018, regardless of a provider’s prior participation in the EHR Incentive Programs. The rule would align the meaningful use program’s reporting period with national health care quality improvement efforts.

The ONC proposed rule aims to support the EHR Incentive Programs through the adoption of certification criteria that align with Stage 3 proposals. The rule proposes adopting standards and certification criteria for data portability and application programming interface (API) functionality. According to the ONC, “the proposed rule would help to broaden the use of health IT in a wider range of health settings, making sure that health information is available to consumers where and when it is needed.”

The proposed rules will be published in the Federal Register on March 30, and comments are due by May 29.


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