Some big – and surprising – news on the Meaningful Use (MU) front, as CMS indicated it is considering shortening the 2015 EHR reporting period to 90 days. The agency had previously held firm that the MU reporting period in 2015 would be a full 365 days. CMS announced it is actually considering a number of possible changes to the MU program. The agency said it will publish a new rule “this spring” that will modify MU requirements starting in 2015 to address provider concerns about issues such as “software implementation” and “information exchange readiness.” Note that this new rule on changes in 2015 is separate from the Stage 3 proposed rule that was recently submitted to the Office of Management and Budget for review. (The Stage 3 proposed rule will be published in late February / early March and will focus on MU requirements in 2017 and beyond.)
Impact Advisors’ Thoughts: A 90-day EHR reporting period in 2015 would be great news for many provider organizations! CMS’ announcement has been getting quite a bit of coverage, therefore here are our initial key takeaways:
- Nothing is official yet. It certainly seems unlikely that CMS would float shortening the 2015 reporting period – which hospitals and EPs have long been calling for – only to not follow through. That being said, we want to stress that this change is not a done deal. As of right now, the 2015 EHR reporting period is still 365 days, and if CMS does move forward with the change, it is always possible that the new rule could include details or unexpected provisions that make a 90-day reporting period in 2015 more complicated than it sounds on the surface.
- When will we know for sure? It is not clear from the announcement (at least to us) whether CMS will publish an interim final rule or a notice of proposed rulemaking (i.e. a proposed rule) in the spring. The difference is important when it comes to timing. A proposed rule includes a public comment period, after which CMS is required to review – and respond to – all issues raised; an interim final rule implements changes immediately without seeking public comments beforehand (usually in cases where there is an urgent need or a tight timeline). Bottom line, an interim final rule means the changes would be official in the spring and providers will have more breathing room to finalize plans; a proposed rule means a more drawn out process with a final rule not likely until late summer.
- What other changes are likely to be included? The comment from CMS about responding to provider concerns related to “information exchange readiness” makes us think there are also changes in store for the Summary of Care measure, which is universally regarded as one of the most challenging MU requirements. CMS didn’t provide any hints or details, but it is definitely something to keep a close eye on when the new rule is published.