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Meaningful Use Deadlines Delayed for 1 Year

Responding to comments from healthcare providers, healthcare associations, EHR developers, and other industry stakeholders, federal officials announced late on Friday that the timeline for “meaningful use” deadlines is being pushed back one year.

Senior officials from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT posted a joint letter on the HealthIT.gov website with proposed new dates. The new timeline will give provider organizations an extra year to demonstrate that they have met the Stage 2 criteria of the federal incentive program for meaningful use of electronic health record systems.

Stage 2 will be extended through 2016, while Stage 3 will begin in 2017 for provider organizations that have completed at least two years in Stage 2 of the meaningful use timeline.

The statement from Jacob Reider, Acting National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, and Robert Tagalicod, Director of CMS’s Office of E-Health Standards and Services, lists several benefits to the extension:

  • “More analysis of feedback from stakeholders on Stage 2 progress and outcomes
  • More available data on Stage 2 adoption and measure calculations—especially on new patient engagement measures and health information exchange objectives
  • More consideration of potential Stage 3 requirements
  • Additional time for preparation for enhanced Stage 3 requirements
  • Ample time for developers to create and distribute certified EHR technology before Stage 3 begins, and incorporate lessons learned about usability and customization.”

The new timeline will be subject to the standard rule-making process, with opportunities for stakeholders to contribute comments. The blog post says the proposed rule will likely be released in the fall of 2014, while the final rule, which will include all requirements for Stage 3, would follow in the first half of 2015.

Hospital and physician groups have insisted for months that the original deadlines for Stage 2 were burdensome and called for flexibility. The CMS/ONC post highlights the need for interoperability, which has been a particular point of contention, saying the new timeline will “enable our certification processes to … include newer industry standards that can lead to greater interoperability, and add more predictability for EHR technology developers.”