The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has acted to substantially reduce burdens on hospitals aiming to achieve the meaningful use of electronic health records.

Hospitals are being given another year to use the 2014 Edition of Certified EHR Technology (CEHRT) software. Facilities also now have the option of continuing to meet modified Stage 2 measures for meaningful use, rather than being required to move to Stage 3 in 2018. Under the new final rule, hospitals now are not required to meet Stage 3 until 2019.

Hospitals, at their option, also can use a combination of the 2014 and 2015 editions of meaningful use software.

The revisions to meaningful use regulations were released today in a final rule covering the Fiscal Year 2018 Inpatient Prospective Payment System, which broadly covers payments to providers under Medicare.

Also See: Bill suggests changes for meaningful use program

Further, hospitals will be required to report only four electronic clinical quality measures (eCQMs) in 2017 and 2018, instead of eight measures. And, providers can select any quarter of data for eCQM reporting for both years.

Also under the final rule, CMS is establishing new requirements or revising existing requirements for eligible professionals (EPs), eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals (CAHs) participating in the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs.

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, a professional group that represents chief information officers and other healthcare IT professionals, strongly praised the new policies.

“CMS took into account that both hospitals and vendors need more time to prepare for 2015 certified EHRs,” said Liz Johnson, CHIME board chair and CIO of acute hospitals and applied clinical informatics at Tenet Healthcare. “Taken together, the common sense changes CMS made will provide greater stability and certainty to hospitals, allowing them to continue to forge ahead using technology to better treat the patients they serve.”

The 2,456-page final rule, of which only a small portion addresses the meaningful use program changes, is available here.

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