The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Wednesday announced that it is streamlining electronic health record reporting requirements for eligible professionals and hospitals in the Medicare EHR Incentive Program.

“These changes include a proposal for clinicians, hospitals and critical access hospitals to use a 90-day EHR reporting period in 2016—down from a full calendar year for returning participants,” states the CMS announcement. “This increases flexibility and lowers the reporting burden for hospital providers.”

The proposed rule also offers a variety of adjustments in objectives for Stage 3 of the program; providers must provide evidence on these objectives to qualify for incentive payments for Stage 3. The agency says it lowered thresholds for achieving objectives in response to industry feedback on provider IT capabilities, as well as the readiness of HIT vendors, and their patients and consumers.

In 2015, the EHR reporting period for all eligible professionals, eligible hospitals and CAHs was any continuous 90-day period. What CMS is proposing in the new rule is a 90-day EHR reporting period in 2016 for all EPs, eligible hospitals and CAHs. The EHR reporting period would be any continuous 90-day period between Jan. 1, 2016 and Dec. 31, 2016.

The new proposed rule is a result of the agency’s review of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA).

“Earlier this year, CMS conducted a review of the Medicare EHR Incentive Program for clinicians as part of our implementation of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA), with the aim of reconsidering the program so we move closer to achieving the full potential health information technology offers,” stated the agency. “Based on that review, CMS streamlined EHR reporting requirements under the proposed rule to implement certain provisions of MACRA to increase flexibility and support improved patient outcomes.”

Bloomberg/file photo

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives issued its own statement in response to the proposed rule.

“We are pleased that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services today recommended a 90-day reporting period in 2016 for hospitals in the Meaningful Use program,” said the organization. “CHIME and its members have been leading advocates for a more realistic reporting period. Shortening the reporting period to 90-days from the current 365 days will allow hospitals and health systems to continue making progress in adopting technology systems that support new payment and care delivery models. We are reviewing the proposed regulation and will have more detailed comments in the coming days.”

CMS also announced that it is proposing to eliminate the Clinical Decision Support and Computerized Provider Order Entry objectives and measures for eligible hospitals and CAHs attesting under the Medicare EHR Incentive Program and reduce the thresholds for a subset of the remaining objectives and measures in Modified Stage 2 for 2017 and Stage 3 for 2017 and 2018. “These proposed changes would not apply to eligible hospitals and CAHs that attest under a state’s Medicaid EHR Incentive Program,” the agency statement said.

In addition, CMS proposes that EPs, eligible hospitals and CAHs that have not successfully demonstrated meaningful use in a prior year would be required to attest to Modified Stage 2 by Oct. 1, 2017. “Returning EPs, eligible hospitals and CAHs will report to different systems in 2017 and therefore would not be affected by this proposal,” according to CMS.

When it comes to hardship exceptions, the agency is proposing that certain EPs who have not successfully demonstrated meaningful use in a prior year, intend to attest to meaningful use for an EHR reporting period in 2017, and intend to transition to MIPS and report on measures specified for the advancing care information performance category under the MIPS as proposed in 2017—can apply for a significant hardship exception from the 2018 payment adjustment.

Additional information about the proposed rule can be found here in PDF format.

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