On March 20, 2015, CMS and the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (“ONC”) released proposed rules regarding Stage 3 of the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Records (“EHRs”) Incentive Programs and the 2015 Edition Health IT Certification Criteria in an effort to improve the way electronic health information is shared.  CMS stated that the two proposed rules will drive interoperability among EHRs, ultimately improving patient care.  Comments for both proposals are due by May 29, 2015.

The first proposed rule outlines CMS’s Stage 3 Meaningful Use rule.  The rule includes new criteria that eligible professionals, eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals must meet to qualify for Medicaid EHR incentive payments.  The rule also proposes criteria that providers must meet to avoid Medicare payment cuts based on program performance beginning in 2018. Further, the proposal would establish a single set of tailored objectives and measures to meet the definition of meaningful use, optional for providers in 2017 and required for all eligible providers for an EHR reporting period in 2018 and following years.  In addition, CMS proposes the removal of measures no longer useful in evaluating performance in an effort to reduce the reporting burden on providers.  The proposed rule would implement measures designed to facilitate streamlined quality reporting for multiple CMS programs.  CMS intends that this Stage 3 proposed rule be the last stage of the meaningful use framework.

The second proposed rule is the ONC 2015 Edition Health IT Certification Criteria proposal, which includes new and updated IT functionality requirements and provisions supporting care improvement, cost reduction, and patient safety across the health system.  Among other things, the proposed rule aims to:

  • Improve interoperability by adopting updated vocabulary and content standards for the recording and exchange of health information;  
  • Facilitate the accessibility and exchange of data by including enhanced data portability, transitions of care, and application programming interface capabilities in the 2015 Edition Base EHR definition; 
  • Support the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs through the adoption of a set of certification criteria that align with proposals for Stage 3;
  • Increase the reliability and transparency of certified health IT through surveillance and disclosure requirements; and
  • Provide health IT developers with more flexibility and opportunities for certification that support both interoperability and innovation.

The HHS press release is available here.  The Stage 3 proposed rule is available here.  The ONC proposed rule is available here.  Both rules will be published in the Federal Register on March 30, 2015, and the comment period for both rules ends on May 29, 2015.