On July 13, the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) and CMS released their final rules for electronic health record standards (EHR) for certification and the Medicare/Medicaid EHR incentive programs. As part of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), eligible health-care professionals and hospitals can qualify for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments when they adopt certified EHR technology and use it to achieve meaningful use criteria (MU). Incentive payments for physicians using EHRs will begin in mid-May 2011. Total incentive payments for providers who use EHRs meeting MU requirements between 2011 and 2016 will be a maximum of $44,000 for Medicare and $63,750 for Medicaid. CMS received more than 2,000 comments on these rules, including significant comments provided by the GI societies.
We are interested in knowing if GI physician practices plan on participating in the EHR incentive program, and how they are gearing up toward purchasing EHR technology and addressing the MU requirements in their practices. Post your comments to let us know your plans.
Key Points of the Rules
Overall, physician and hospital groups are pleased that CMS and ONC have relaxed the requirements in the final rules, making the rules more realistic and achievable in a short timeframe. The CMS final rule makes significant changes to the proposed rule. For example, instead of the “all or nothing” approach found in the proposed rule for meaningful use, the final rule divides the MU objectives for stage one into a “core” group of required objectives (15 for eligible professionals and 14 for eligible hospitals) and additional optional objectives, from which providers can choose five to defer in 2011 or 2012. AGA is pleased that CMS has defined “hospital based providers” as providers who perform substantially all of their services in an inpatient hospital setting or emergency room, as this provides clarity on the definition.
The final rule also relaxes the threshold requirements for meeting stage one criteria. The proposed rule required that 75 percent of all prescriptions be transmitted electronically; however, the final rule requires that only 40 percent of prescriptions be sent electronically for stage one. The quality reporting measure requirements in the final rule have been reduced from 90 measures in the proposed rule to 44 measures in the final rule. In addition, the ONC rule assures providers that EHR developers who comply with the final rule on standards and certification will be assured that their EHR technology will be compatible with meeting stage one meaningful use objectives.
We are in the process of reviewing these rules, which will be published in the Federal Register on July 28, in greater detail. AGA is scheduling an upcoming webinar on the rules; stay tuned to the AGA Washington Insider and AGA eDigest for more information.