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Meaningful Use Stage 2 Extended, Not Delayed

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On Friday, December 6, CMS proposed an extension of meaningful use Stage 2, giving providers and hospitals additional time to “catch up” on Stage 2 priorities prior to attesting for Stage 3. Under this extension, eligible professionals (EPs) wouldn’t need to attest for Stage 3 until calendar year 2017, as long as they have completed at least 2 years of Stage 2.

CMS stated on Friday that, “This new proposed timeline tracks ongoing conversations we at CMS and ONC have had with providers, consumers, health care associations, EHR developers, and other stakeholders in the health care industry. This timeline allows for enhanced program analysis of Stage 2 data to inform the improvements in care delivery outcomes in Stage 3.”

Over the summer, CMS heard petitions from the American Medical Association (AMA), the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) asking for a delay in the implementation of Stage 2 measures. And in September, Senators John Thune (Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference) and Lamar Alexander wrote a letter to Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, requesting a “reboot” of the meaningful use program. Their letter did not suggest delaying the implementation of Stage 2, but asked that a reprieve be granted for providers not yet ready to meet Stage 2 measures.

Friday’s announcement does not accommodate these appeals. Stage 2 will still begin in 2014 according to schedule. The only significant change made by this release is the deadline for when EPs will begin Stage 3. Providers beginning Stage 2 in 2014 will now attest for 3 years of Stage 2 before moving to Stage 3 in 2017. The remaining providers will begin Stage 2 in 2015 or 2016 (depending on when they initially attested for Stage 1) and report on these requirements for 2 years before moving to Stage 3. Below is a table that illustrates the effects of this announcement.

Many providers are asking what this change means for their practice. Since the impact of the announcement is isolated to 2017, providers and organizations should continue Stage 2 preparations as planned. Groundwork to improve patient engagement and implementation of other new measures should not be halted. Although this announcement provides a sense of relief for the future, it is an extension rather than a delay. Present actions and planning for the meaningful use program should not change.

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