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Rule to Change MU Reporting Period to 90 Days is Issued

Today, CMS issued a new proposed rule for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs to align Stage 1 and Stage 2 objectives and measures with the long-term proposals for Stage 3.

The modifications would allow providers to focus more closely on the advanced use of certified EHR technology to support health information exchange and quality improvement.

The new rule proposes a change in the reporting period for meaningful use from one year to 90 days in 2015.

Proposed Changes for EHR Incentive Programs
Together with the proposed Stage 3 notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) issued on March 20, 2015, the proposed rules align and merge the “stages” of meaningful use requirements.

The proposed rule changes the programs by:

  • Streamlining reporting by removing redundant, duplicative, and topped-out measures
  • Modifying patient action measures in Stage 2 objectives related to patient engagement
  • Aligning the EHR reporting period for eligible hospitals and CAHs with the full calendar year
  • Changing the EHR reporting period in 2015 to a 90-day period to accommodate modifications
April 10, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

New EHR Attestation Deadline for Medicare Eligible Professionals: March 20, 2015

Eligible professionals now have until 11:59 pm ET on March 20, 2015, to attest to meaningful use for the Medicare Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program 2014 reporting year.

CMS extended the deadline to allow providers extra time to submit their meaningful use data. CMS continues to urge providers to begin attesting for 2014 as soon as they can.

This extension also allows eligible professionals, who have not already used their one “switch”, to switch programs (from Medicare to Medicaid, or vice versa) for the 2014 payment year until 11:59 pm ET on March 20, 2015. After that time, eligible professionals will no longer be able to switch programs.

Medicare eligible professionals must attest to meaningful use every year to receive an incentive and avoid a payment adjustment. Providers who successfully attest for the 2014 program year will:

Note: The Medicare extension does not affect deadlines for the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program. Additionally, the EHR reporting option for PQRS has been extended until March 20, 2015. Please be on the lookout for a separate listserv with information regarding the PQRS program extension.

How to Attest
Submit your data to the Registration and Attestation System, which includes 2014 Certified EHR Technology (CEHRT) Flexibility Rule options.

Tips for speed:

  • Attest during non-peak hours, such as evenings and weekends
  • Start now to:
    • Check that your information is up to date
    • Begin entering your 2014 data

To learn more, see the Educational Resources on the CMS EHR Incentive Programs website.

February 25, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Hospitals Must Start Medicare EHR Participation in 2015 to Earn Incentives

Not participating in the Medicare EHR Incentive Program yet? 2015 is the last year for eligible hospitals to begin and still earn incentive payments.

To earn a 2015 incentive payment and avoid a 2016 payment adjustment, first-time participants should:

  • Begin their 90-day reporting period no later than April 1, 2015
  • Attest by July 1, 2015

Eligible hospitals that miss this deadline can still earn a 2015 incentive payment—and avoid the 2017 payment adjustment—if they begin their reporting period by July 1 and attest by November 30. However, they will be subject to the 2016 payment adjustment unless they apply and qualify for a hardship exception.

Hospitals that successfully attest in 2015 will also be eligible to earn a 2016 incentive if they continue to participate.

Eligible hospitals that begin participating after 2015 will not be able to earn incentive payments. They will also be subject to payment adjustments in 2016 and 2017.

Additional Resources
The EHR Incentive Programs website offers tools and resources to help eligible hospitals to successfully participate:

February 11, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

New EHR Attestation Deadline for Eligible Hospitals: December 31, 2014

I just got the following note from CMS about an extension to the EHR Attestation deadline for eligible hospitals. Here’s all the details:

CMS is extending the deadline for eligible hospitals and Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) to attest to meaningful use for the Medicare Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program 2014 reporting year from 11:59 pm EST on November 30, 2014 to 11:59 pm EST on December 31, 2014.

This extension will allow more time for hospitals to submit their meaningful use data and receive an incentive payment for the 2014 program year, as well as avoid the 2016 Medicare payment adjustment.

CMS is also extending the deadline for eligible hospitals and CAHs that are electronically submitting clinical quality measures (CQMs) to meet that requirement of meaningful use and the Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting (IQR) program. Hospitals now have until December 31, 2014 to submit their eCQM data via Quality Net.

Note: This extension does not impact the deadlines for the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program.

November 24, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Fine Thinking Friday

I just posted a tweet summary of today’s #HITsm chat about meaningful use. It was full of amazing insights on what’s happening with EHR, meaningful use and healthcare IT. There were so many insights that it got really long, but go and read it anyway. It’s still just a bunch of easily digestible tweets.

Since the post was getting too long, I didn’t want to make it longer by including some of the off topic tweets that were sent during the #HITsm chat. I guess that’s where it’s an advantage to have a full network of EHR and Healthcare IT blogs. I decided that I’d share the really interesting off topic tweets from today’s Twitter chat here.


What a great discussion between Keith and Stephanie. I think we’d all like to see a “little less talk…a lot more action!” (sorry to get that song in your head, but I had to do it)


Gregg Masters response to this tweet was spot on: “Bingo! you nailed the problem. ‘complexity’.” It is super complex and Mandi’s right that no doctor is going to go through the trouble. Bernadette also replied to the tweet and said that “Experts like you are precious.” Very true!


This is the challenge that we’ll be dealing with for a while to come. The shift will not be easy.

I love when a Twitter chat goes off topic. These tweets are great examples of why I like it. Definitely worthy of a Fine Thinking Friday post!

October 17, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

How the Meaningful Use Stage 2 Timeline Affects Your Medical Practice

The following is a guest blog post by Dana Deardorff.
D. Deardorff pic
The year of 2014 will be a year of great transition for most medical practices. You may be in the beginning stages of using EHR/EMR software, or you may be installing Medical Practice (MP) software for the first time. Perhaps you have been using a software program, but you’ve realized you need to upgrade to software that is certified for Meaningful Use. Or, if you’ve purchased certified software, you may need help proving the “meaningful use” of that software, meeting the requirements of Stage 2.

What does Stage 2 Meaningful Use mean for your medical practice? In addition to more recording and reporting measures, Stage 2 of Meaningful Use emphasizes care coordination and HIPAA-compliant engagement with patients.

Meaningful Use Stage Requirements

Stage 1

Beginning in 2011, the focus was on data capturing and sharing. Eligible providers and hospitals were required to show meaningful use of software by meeting a set number of objectives. These objectives were broken down into core objectives and menu set objectives. To be eligible for incentive payments, eligible providers and hospitals needed to prove they met the requirements for a 90-day period in the first year of participation and the entire second year of participation.

In a nutshell, during Stage 1, you are expected to:

  • Capture health information in a standardized electronic format
  • Use EHR/EMR or MP software to track clinical conditions
  • Report clinical quality measures and public health information
  • Begin engaging electronically with patients via HIPAA-compliant software

Your EHR/EMR or MP software vendor should be able to explain the practical applications of these requirements to you, training your staff how to prove and report compliance.

Stage 2

Once you’ve met the requirements for Stage 1 of Meaningful Use, you will need to widen your focus to include clinical processes.

In shorthand, during Stage 2, you will be expected to:

  • Engage in more rigorous health information exchange
  • Engage in e-prescribing
  • Deliver lab results electronically
  • Offer increased patient-controlled data and engagement with patient through electronic means
  • Transmit patient care summaries securely and compliantly through approved electronic methods

On a practical level, this means your office will need to use software that provides the following features, amongst others:

  • Patient engagement portal, including mobile device access to messages and records
  • Electronic recording of and communication of immunization records
  • E-prescribing capabilities and communication

You can begin meeting Meaningful Use Stage 2 requirements now (2014), assuming you have already met Meaningful Use Stage 1 requirements for the minimum time frame. (Ninety consecutive days one year, and an entire year the following year. Be sure to learn more about the possible Meaningful Use Stage 2 delay.) You will need to do the same with Meaningful Use Stage 2 before you can proceed to Stage 3.

Stage 3

Beginning in 2016, eligible providers and hospitals can take on a third set of requirements, focused on improving quality of care, safety and efficiency. The end goal is to provide improved health outcomes.

Meaningful Use Timeline

Eligible hospitals are held to a fiscal-year timeline, but eligible providers are held to the calendar year. This means you will need to ask your EHR/EMR or MP software vendor to help you figure out what your practice’s deadline is and how to meet it for each stage. A good vendor should be able to help you overcome obstacles like:

  • Employee resistance to using new software or processes
  • Software implementation and integration challenges
  • Office procedure modifications and work flow changes

Participation in Stage 1 opened in 2011. Practices that were early participants are now moving into Stage 2 here in 2014. Those who participate soon will be eligible for Stage 3 participation as soon as 2016, taking advantage of years of incentive payments.

Medical Practice Participation

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, more than 355,000 health care providers have received incentive payments for their participation in the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs (as of February 2014).  Over $13.6 billion has been paid out through the Medicare EHR Incentive Program thus far, and over $7.5 billion has been paid out through the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program.

Incentive payments aren’t the only reason to upgrade your MP software. Medicaid and Medicare eligible providers and hospitals that do not meet Meaningful Use requirements will be subjected to penalties starting in 2015. These penalties will come in the form of payment reductions, starting at one percent, capped at five percent for each year eligible providers don’t demonstrate meaningful use.

If you haven’t tackled this challenge yet, you’ll want to take it on now, before you miss out on the incentive payments and lose out on a percentage of your Medicaid and Medicare payments.With the right guidance, you’ll find that the upgrade and training will result in an improved experience for everyone, staff and patients alike.

About Dana Deardorff of MediPro

MediPro, Inc. is a full-service medical billing software company offering practice management (PM) software, electronic health records (EHR) and electronic medical records (EMR) from IMS and McKesson. As of April 2014, IMS is certified for Meaningful Use Stage 2, and McKesson, which is certified for Stage 1, will soon also be certified for Stage 2. (McKesson is certified for Stage 2 now, they just haven’t made the formal announcement).

May 30, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Eligible Professionals: Deadline to Submit Hardship Exception Applications Approaching

Here’s the latest email from CMS on the hardship exception deadline:

Are you a Medicare provider who was unable to successfully demonstrate meaningful use for 2013? CMS is accepting applications for hardship exceptions to avoid the upcoming Medicare payment adjustment for the 2015 reporting year.

Payment adjustments for the Medicare EHR Incentive Program will begin on January 1, 2015 for eligible professionals.

However, you can avoid the adjustment by completing a hardship exception application and providing supporting documentation that proves demonstrating meaningful use would be a significant hardship for you. CMS will review applications to determine whether or not you are granted a hardship exception.

CMS has posted hardship exception applications on the EHR website for:

Applications for the 2015 payment adjustments are due July 1, 2014 for eligible professionals.  If approved, the exception is valid for one year.

New Hardship Exception Tipsheets
You can also avoid payment adjustments by successfully demonstrating meaningful use prior to the payment adjustment. Tipsheets are available on the CMS website that outline when eligible professionals must demonstrate meaningful use in order to avoid the payment adjustments.

May 28, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Meaningful Use Stage 2 Delayed Until 2015 (Unless You Don’t Want to Wait)

Big news coming out of HHS today, CMS issued a proposed rule that changes the EHR certification requirements, firms up the meaningful use stage 3 delay that was announced previously, and most importantly delays the meaningful use stage 2 requirement until 2015. I guess one could argue that it’s not a delay since you can still attest to MU stage 2 in 2014 if you’d like (some already have), but for practical purposes this is a delay in the enforcement of meaningful use stage 2 for many organizations.

It looks like CMS and ONC was listening to the backlash against meaningful use stage 2 and the potential fallout. This isn’t quite blowing up meaningful use, but it’s a step in that direction. Here’s the chart that ONC put out that shows the new timelines:
New Meaningful Use and EHR Certification Timelines - Meaningful Use Stage 2 Delay

It’s worth noting that this is just a proposed rule, but there were usually very few drastic changes between proposed rules and final rules in the past. Sure, there could be a few tweaks, but I bet this goes into place essentially as it stands.

This will be a relief to hundreds of EHR vendors that are behind on becoming 2014 Certified. I expect most will continue with their 2014 Certified plans, but many of their users will likely opt to stick with the simpler meaningful use stage 1 objectives and measures. What’s not clear to me is if the attestation process will stay the same (ie. self attestation in MU stage 1) or not. I’ve asked HHS and will update the post (see update at the bottom of the post) once I hear from them.

What do you think of these changes? What impact will this have on you and your organization?

Here’s another email that CMS sent out:

CMS and ONC Release NPRM Allowing CEHRT Flexibility and Extending Stage 2

Today, CMS and ONC released a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that would allow providers participating in the EHR Incentive Programs to use the 2011 Edition of certified electronic health record technology (CEHRT) for calendar and fiscal year 2014.

The NPRM will grant flexibility to providers who are experiencing difficulties fully implementing 2014 Edition CEHRT to attest this year. The proposed rule would allow providers to use EHRs that have been certified under the 2011 Edition, a combination of the 2011 and 2014 Editions, or the 2014 Edition.

Beginning in 2015, all eligible providers would be required to report using 2014 Edition CEHRT.

2014 Participation Options
Under this proposal, valid only for the 2014 reporting year, providers would be able to use 2011 Edition CEHRT for either Stage 1 or Stage 2, would have the option to attest to the 2013 definition of meaningful use core and menu objectives, and use the 2013 definition CQMs.

Providers currently working on Stage 1 in 2014 would be able to demonstrate:

  • Stage 1 (2013 Definition) using 2011 Edition CEHRT, or using a combination of 2011 and 2014 Edition CEHRT; or
  • Stage 1 (2014+ Definition) using 2014 Edition CEHRT.

Providers currently working on Stage 2 in 2014 would be able to demonstrate:

  • Stage 1 (2013 Definition) using 2011 Edition CEHRT, or using a combination of 2011 and 2014 Edition CEHRT;
  • Stage 1 (2014+ Definition) using 2014 Edition CEHRT; or
  • Stage 2 (2014+ Definition) using 2014 Edition CEHRT.

UPDATE: Here’s the response I got from CMS about the reporting periods:

Reporting periods are not changing.

For 2014 Only
Because all providers must upgrade or adopt newly certified EHRs in 2014, all providers regardless of their stage of meaningful use are only required to demonstrate meaningful use for a three-month (or 90-day) EHR reporting period in 2014:

Medicare eligible professionals beyond their first year of meaningful use must select a three-month reporting period fixed to the quarter of the calendar year for eligible professionals. Providers must attest to these reporting periods no later than February 28, 2015 at 12 am ET.

Medicare eligible professionals in their first year of meaningful use may select any 90 day reporting period.

Medicaid eligible professionals can select any 90-day reporting period that falls within the 2014 calendar year.

May 20, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Medicare Eligible Hospitals: Take Action by April 1 to Avoid 2015 Payment Adjustment

Payment adjustments for eligible hospitals that have not successfully participated in the Medicare EHR Incentive Program will begin on October 1, 2014. Hospitals can avoid the payment adjustment by taking action by April 1.

Hospitals that have never participated in the Medicare EHR Incentive Program can:

  • Submit a hardship exception application for experiencing circumstances that posted a significant barrier to achieving meaningful use
  • Begin 90 days of meaningful use for the 2014 reporting year by April 1 and attest by July 1

Hospitals that participated in 2011 or 2012, but did not successfully participate in 2013 due to circumstances that created barriers can also submit a hardship exception.

About Hardship Exceptions
The hardship exception application for Medicare eligible hospitals is available on the EHR Incentive Programs website and outlines the specific types of circumstances that CMS considers to be barriers to achieving meaningful use. Supporting documentation must also be provided. CMS will review applications to determine whether or not a hardship exception should be granted.

As a reminder, the application must be submitted electronically or postmarked no later than 11:59pm ET on April 1, 2014 to be considered. If approved, the exception is valid for one year.

March 10, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Getting HITECH: Unraveling the Complexities of Compliance

The following is a guest blog post by Jason Carolan, CTO for ViaWest.
Jason Carolan

HITECH and HIPAA compliance are incredibly important to the bottom lines of many companies. But what exactly does this compliance entail? In 2009, the HITECH Act (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) was passed, expanding the scope of the previous Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HITECH enforces the rules of HIPAA, while invoking stiff fines for non-compliance. Now more than ever before it is absolutely imperative that companies working with healthcare organizations ensure they have all the facts before designing IT solutions. And one of the keys to having all the facts is knowing the core terminology.

A Covered Entity under the HIPAA privacy rule refers to health plan groups, health care clearinghouses and health care providers that transmit health information electronically, including, doctors, dentists, chiropractors, insurers, Medicare, medical plans and billing services. These Covered Entities face the additional challenge of managing their Business Associates, revisiting agreements and ensuring privacy, security, enforcements and breach notification updates in order to meet the requirements of the Final Rule.

A Business Associate (BA) under the HIPAA privacy rule refers to a person or organization that conducts business with a Covered Entity that involves the use, access or disclosure of protected health information (PHI). HITECH also specifies that an organization that provides data transmission of PHI is a BA. Examples of BAs include vendors, subcontractors and IT service providers that provide managed hosting services requiring access, use or disclosure of PHI.

All HIPAA Covered Entities and Business Associates must comply with security controls to safeguard PHI through the following due diligence efforts:

  • Ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of PHI
  • Protect against any reasonably anticipated threats and hazards
  • Protect against reasonably anticipated uses or disclosures of PHI that are not permitted
  • Ensure compliance by its workforce through Administrative Safeguards, Physical Safeguards, Technical Safeguards, Organizational Requirements and Policies and Procedures
  • Documentation of breach notification procedures and timeliness of breach notification

Covered Entities and Business Associates who have a strong security posture and can prove their due diligence through establishments and audit of controls and breach preparedness have a lower risk of fines than those companies that do nothing.  Proven due diligence includes:

  • Prioritizing compliance efforts
  • Culture awareness
  • Implementing security policies
  • Conducting risk assessments
  • Enforcing and validation of controls to protect PHI

IT departments are dealing with the same or shrinking budgets.  So, with a larger component of IT budget consumed by compliance, CIOs and CTOs are getting pressure from a resource standpoint but shrinking budgets. Failing on compliance can bring stiffer punishments and fines, so, more and more companies are looking at outsourcing so that they can share the burden and ensure they aren’t missing important components.

An audit may not be a pleasant experience, but it’s a reality, and being prepared is the key. The right technology provider can help you not just with a compliance checklist, but can take it a step further and provide a comprehensive set of solutions to be “baked in” upfront – minimizing the risk of audit or the “pain” of the audit if you are in the midst of one.

With increased regulation comes increased risk and complexity surrounding HIPAA compliance.  Are you confident in your company’s data security?

March 6, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.