The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has released five new frequently asked questions about the meaningful use incentive program. The questions cover exchange of clinical information, CPOE measure calculation, and the counting of patients in swing beds, nursery day patients and lab tests. The complete questions and answers are:

Question 1: For the meaningful use objective of "capability to exchange key clinical information" for the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs, does exchange of electronic information using physical media, such as USB, CD-ROM, or other formats, meet the measure of this objective?

Answer 1: No, the use of physical media such as a CD-ROM, a USB or hard drive, or other formats to exchange key clinical information would not utilize the certification capability of certified EHR technology to electronically transmit the information, and therefore would not meet the measure of this objective.

For the purposes of the "capability to exchange key clinical information" measure, exchange is defined as electronic transmission and acceptance of key clinical information using the capabilities and standards of certified EHR technology (as specified at 45 CFR 170.304(i) for EPs and 45 CFR 170.306(f) for eligible hospitals and CAHs). We expect that this information would be exchanged in structured electronic format when available (e.g., drug or clinical lab data); however, where the information is available only in unstructured electronic formats (e.g., free text or scanned images), the exchange of unstructured information would satisfy this measure. For more information about electronic exchange of key clinical information, please refer to the following FAQ: http://questions.cms.hhs.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/10270/kw/10270.

Please note that this objective is distinct from objectives such as "provide a summary of care record for each transition of care," where electronic exchange of the summary of care record is not a requirement but an option. To satisfy the measure of the "provide a summary of care record for each transition of care" objective, a provider is permitted to send an electronic or paper copy of the summary care record directly to the next provider or can provide it to the patient to deliver. In this case, the use of physical media such as a CD-ROM, a USB or hard drive, or other formats could satisfy the measure of this objective.

Question 2: For the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs, how should an eligible professional (EP) who orders medications infrequently calculate the measure for the "computerized provider order entry (CPOE)" objective if the EP sees patients whose medications are maintained in the medication list by the EP but were not ordered or prescribed by the EP?

Answer 2: The CPOE measure is structured to minimize reporting burden.  However, if all of the following conditions are met it can also create a unique situation that could prevent an EP from successfully demonstrating meaningful use. An EP who:

   1. Prescribes more than 100 medications during the EHR reporting period;

   2. Maintains medication lists that include medications that they did not order; and

   3. Orders medications for less than 30 percent of patients with a medication in their medication list during the EHR reporting period.

In these circumstances, an EP may be both unable to meet this measure and unable to qualify for the exclusion. In the unique situation where all three criteria listed above apply, an EP may limit their denominator to only those patients for whom the EP has previously ordered medication, if they so choose. EPs who do not meet the three criteria listed above must still base their calculation on the number of unique patients with at least one medication in their medication list seen by the EP during the EHR reporting period regardless of who ordered the medication or medications in the patient's medication list.

Question 3: How should patients in swing beds be counted in the denominators of meaningful use measures for eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals (CAHs) for the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs?

Answer 3: A number of the meaningful use measures for eligible hospitals and CAHs require the denominator to be based on the number of unique patients admitted to the inpatient or emergency department during the EHR reporting period.  Unique swing bed patients who receive inpatient care should be included in the denominators of meaningful use measures. However, if the eligible hospital or CAH's certified EHR technology cannot readily identify and include unique swing bed patients who have received inpatient care, those patients may be excluded from the calculations for the denominators of meaningful use measures.

Question 4: How should nursery day patients be counted in the denominators of meaningful use measures for eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals (CAHs) for the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs?

Answer 4: Nursery days are excluded from the calculation of hospital incentives because they are not considered inpatient-bed-days based on the level of care provided during a normal nursery stay. In addition, nursery day patients should not be included in the denominators of meaningful use measures. However, if the eligible hospital or critical access hospital's (CAH's) certified EHR technology cannot readily identify and exclude nursery day patients, those patients may be included in the calculations for the denominators of meaningful use measures.

Question 5: What lab tests should be included in the denominator of the measure for the "incorporate clinical lab-test results" objective under the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs?

Answer 5: For the "incorporate clinical lab-test results" objective, the denominator consists of the number of lab tests ordered during the EHR reporting period by the eligible professional (or authorized providers of the eligible hospital or critical access hospital (CAH) for patients admitted to an eligible hospital's or CAH's inpatient or emergency department (POS 21 and 23)) whose results are expressed in a positive or negative affirmation or as a number. Providers may limit the denominator to only those lab tests that were ordered during the EHR reporting period and for which results were received during the same EHR reporting period.

The complete FAQ page is available at cms.gov/ehrincentivesprograms.

 

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