On December 6, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed a new timeline for the implementation of meaningful use for the Medicare and Medicaid electronic health record (EHR) incentive programs (Meaningful Use Incentive Programs). Specifically, CMS is giving providers another year to show they have met the Stage 2 criteria of the Meaningful Use Incentive Programs and delaying the start of Stage 3.

Under the revised timeline, Stage 2 will be extended through 2016 and Stage 3 will not begin until 2017 for those providers that have completed at least two years in Stage 2 (until federal fiscal year 2017 for eligible hospitals and calendar year 2017 for eligible professionals).

The revised timeline would have a number of benefits, including:

  • 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; and,
  • Ample time for developers to create and distribute certified EHR technology before Stage 3 begins, and incorporate lessons learned about usability and customization.

CMS plans to release the proposed rule for Stage 3 in the fall of 2014, with the final Stage 3 rule to follow in the first half of 2015. The corresponding Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) proposed rule for the 2017 Edition of the ONC Standards and Certification Criteria will also be released in the fall of 2014. The CMS and ONC fall 2014 releases will outline further details for the new timeline.