The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), together with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), have announced a one-year delay in the timetable for Meaningful Use Stage 2.
Under the revised timeline, hospitals and eligible providers implementing electronic health record systems using the incentives available under the Medicare Meaningful Use program will have an additional year to demonstrate Stage 2 Meaningful Use without incurring Medicare payment penalties, which were originally scheduled to begin in January 2015.
The qualification period for Stage 2 will be extended through 2016, with Stage 3 of the program to begin in 2017 for those providers that have completed at least two years in Stage 2, said Robert Tagalicod, Director, Office of E-Health Standards and Services, CMS and Jacob Reider, MD, Acting National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, ONC.
The goal of this change is two-fold, the officials explained. First it will allow CMS and ONC to focus efforts on the successful implementation of the enhanced patient engagement, interoperability and health information exchange requirements in Stage 2. Second, it will enable the use of data from Stage 2 participants to inform policy decisions for Stage 3.
The change is not helpful to hospitals and providers who are still struggling with Meaningful Use Stage 1, since the timetable for implementing and meaningfully using electronic health record systems in that stage remains in place. The impact of this latest change is minimal for those eligible providers who intend to qualify for EHR incentives under the Medicaid Meaningful Use program, since that program does not threaten date-related payment penalties.
Along with the one-year delay, officials also said that they planned to change the certification requirements for EHR systems that had not yet been certified to meet Stage 2 requirements. They pointed out that the planned change to Stage 2 certification standards would not apply to EHRs already certified under Stage 2 requirements.