The eHealth Initiative has joined a growing chorus of stakeholders in asking the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to abandon its "all or nothing" approach for meeting criteria to demonstrate meaningful use of electronic health records to qualify for incentive payments.

In a comment letter to CMS, the industry advocacy organization recommends that providers be allowed to qualify for incentives if they achieve a "sufficient" component of the requirements. The recommendation, the group notes, is similar to one made by the HIT Policy Committee during its Feb. 17 meeting.

Under eHealth Initiative's recommendation, eligible professionals and hospitals "would be permitted to defer fulfillment of a small number of meaningful use criteria and still qualify for incentive payment. The deferment would last until Stage 2 criteria apply." No criteria in the Privacy & Security or Patient Engagement categories would be deferrable.

The organization also joins many others in asking for a new definition of hospital-based physicians to enable more of these physicians to qualify for meaningful use incentives. Under the definition in the proposed rule, up to 27% of physicians in the U.S. would be ineligible, according to eHealth Initiative.

Another of the group's 18 recommendations calls for a number of policies to further aid rural health providers and hospitals to move to EHRs. For instance, the organization calls for a grant program to help critical access hospitals secure up-front funding for EHR purchase and implementation.

To obtain eHealth Initiative's comment letter, click here.

--Joseph Goedert

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