CMS proposes shorter EHR testing periods, lesser patient access requirements

CMS has proposed key changes to MU stages 1 and 2, including shortening the EHR testing period from one year to 90 days and loosening previous patient engagement requirements.

The agency also proposed aligning all EHR testing periods with the calendar year instead of the fiscal year; a move that primarily would impact hospitals, which presently use the fiscal year.

These changes, first mentioned back in January, were made to simplify reporting and help providers spend more time on EHR compliance.  

“These modifications would allow providers to focus more closely on the advanced use of certified EHR technology to support health information exchange and quality improvement,” CMS said in a statement. “The proposed rule … is a critical step forward in helping to support the long-term goals of delivery system reform; especially those goals of a nationwide interoperable learning health system and patient-centered care.”

Providers should note that the across-the-board 90-day testing period is only good through 2015. In 2016, participants who have tested previously will once again use an EHR reporting period of a full calendar year; organizations demonstrating meaningful use for the first time, however, will still have the shorter 90-day testing period.

An article in Medscape Medical News points out that the proposed changes to EHR testing periods would assist physicians working to demonstrate meaningful use.

“The shorter time frame, sought by organized medicine, will make it easier for physicians to satisfy the requirements of the incentive program and avoid a penalty,” according to the article. “Physicians also will be able to schedule their 90-day reporting period for the latter half of 2015, giving them more time to install an EHR system and train on it.”

Another impactful part of the CMS proposal is that it would reduce the MU Stage 2 requirement that 5% of a provider’s patients must view their medical information with an EHR. The proposed update would change the requirement to at least one patient.

A recent HIMSS Analytics survey found that many healthcare organizations are still struggling with their patient engagement strategy. CMS did not propose changes to the Stage 3 patient access mandate, which requires 25% of a provider’s patients to use an EHR.

The entire 210-page proposal can be found here. Providers have 60 days to comment.