On Aug. 23, 2012, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a final rule (42 C.F.R. pt 412, 413, 495) regarding the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program. The rule specifies the Stage 2 criteria that eligible professionals and hospitals (including critical access hospitals) must meet in order to continue to participate in the EHR Incentive Program.

Under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, health care professionals and hospitals are eligible for incentive payments from Medicare and Medicaid if they adopt and meaningfully use certified EHR technology.

The Program is divided into three stages:

  • Stage 1 sets the basic functionalities EHR must include such as capturing data electronically and providing patients with electronic copies of health information.
  • Stage 2 increases health information exchange between providers and encourages patient participation by giving patients secure online access to their health information.
  • Stage 3 will continue to expand meaningful use objectives to improve health care outcomes.

The requirements announced by CMS: (1) Confirm that Stage 2 of the Program will begin as early as 2014 and that no providers will be required to follow the Stage 2 requirements before then; (2) Outline the certification criteria for the certification of EHR technology, assuring eligible professionals and hospitals that the systems they use will work, help them meaningfully use health information technology, and qualify for incentive payments; (3) Modify the certification program make the process more efficient; and (4) Allow current “2011 Edition Certified EHR Technology” to be used until 2014. Additionally, the final rule also provides a flexible reporting period for 2014; this will give providers adequate time to either adopt or upgrade to the most recent EHR technology certified for 2014.

 Click here for a link to a CMS fact sheet on the final rule.