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CMS Proposes New Timeline for Meaningful Use Requirements

By John Reichard, CQ HealthBeat Editor

December 6, 2013 -- The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is extending through 2016 so-called "stage two" requirements for the "meaningful use" of health information technology, a term that determines whether a providers qualifies for Medicare and Medicaid bonus payments.

The meaningful use program has three stages of requirements: the first to begin reporting data to improve the efficiency and quality of care; the second to promote the exchange of that data with other providers and with consumers; and the third to beef up the amount of stage two data that is generated.

Hospitals in particular have complained that the stage two requirements are starting too soon.

The timeline varies for individual providers, depending on when each hospital or physicians' office enrolled in the program.

Health care providers who started the meaningful use process in the early stages, in 2011 or 2012, will have one extra year to demonstrate the Stage 2 requirements. Instead of starting the third stage of the process in 2016, they will have until 2017.

The revised timeline also says that stage three will start in 2017 for providers that have completed at least two years in stage two. The goal of the changes is to allow CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for health information technology at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to "focus efforts on the successful implementation of the enhanced patient engagement, interoperability, and health information exchange requirements in stage two," HHS said in a document titled "eHealth Blog."

A second goal is to "utilize data from Stage Two participation to inform policy decisions in Stage Three."

HHS also is pursuing a new approach to certification of health information technology. It's designed in part to "enable our certification processes to more quickly adapt to include newer industry standard," and to "add more predictability for electronic health record technology developers," an HHS official said.


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