News Releases

Confirmed Yet Again: No Meaningful Use or ICD-10 Delays

Despite rumors that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) would be making an announcement regarding stage 2 of meaningful use at HIMSS this week, deadlines for both meaningful use and ICD-10 remain firmly in place.

Regarding ICD-10, CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner clearly stated that there would be no more delays. “Let’s face it guys, we’ve delayed this several times and it’s time to move on.” Unsurprisingly, the American Medical Association (AMA) was very disappointed with this news, citing concerns that CMS’ last-minute ICD-10 testing won’t be enough to prevent problems that may happen during the transition to ICD-10. “At the end of the day, sticking hard and fast to the ICD-10 deadline without a back-up plan to address disruptions in medical claims processing will hurt doctors and their patients,” AMA said.

The deadline for stage 2 remains the same as well—hospitals must begin attesting by July 1, eligible providers by October 1—but CMS has added some exemptions. During 2014, EPs and hospitals can request a hardship exemption if they fall under one of these situations:

  • They lack availability of 2014 certified EHR technology
  • Their EHR vendor is unable to upgrade their current EHR in time to meet meaningful use
  • The practice/hospital is unable to incorporate stage 2 requirements into their workflow in time to attest

CMS still expects providers to fully meet meaningful use requirements in 2015, but realizes that, despite their best efforts, some vendors and practices won’t quite be ready to attest this year.

For more, see Modern Healthcare.

News Releases

ONC Releases Proposed Rule on Voluntary 2015 EHR Certification

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) has released a new set of EHR certification criteria, known simply as the “2015 edition.” In order to continue to improve and clarify EHR standards, ONC aims to update its certification criteria more frequently than it has in the past.

The 2015 edition certification is voluntary, and is the first edition of criteria that isn’t tied to meaningful use requirements.

“The proposed 2015 Edition EHR certification criteria reflect ONC’s commitment to incrementally improving interoperability and efficiently responding to stakeholder feedback,” said Karen DeSalvo, ONC chief. “We will continue to focus on setting policy and adopting standards that make it possible for health care providers to safely and securely exchange electronic health information and for patients to become an integral part of their care team.”

About 60 percent of the proposed criteria are the same as what has already been established for 2014 certification, which is required for meaningful use. Some of the changes of note for 2015 certification include the following:

  • New criteria on functionality to support patient population filtering of CQMs
  • Improved interoperability standards
  • A path for certification of EHR technology that is not meaningful use certified
  • Closer alignment with other HHS programs

(Source: Fierce EMR)

The proposed rule will be posted on the Federal Register tomorrow (Feb. 26). The commenting period will be open until April 28. Click here for more information.

News Releases

The HITECH Act: 5 Years Later

This week marks the five-year anniversary of the launch of the HITECH Act. The act includes the meaningful use program; $25 billion was set aside to encourage the adoption of electronic health records (EHR).

In a blog post, Tom Leary, vice president of government relations at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), summarized the progress health IT has made since the HITCH Act was passed. Some of the accomplishments include the following:

  • EHR use among office-based physicians increased from 48 percent in 2009 (the year HITECH was passed) to 78 percent in 2013.
  • As of the end of December 2013, 93 percent of eligible hospitals had registered to participate in one of the EHR Incentive Programs.
  • Over $20 billion has been distributed so far to eligible hospitals and providers who have successfully demonstrated meaningful use.

When the act was signed into law, the president spoke of the need America has for modernized healthcare. “Because we know that spiraling health care costs are crushing families and businesses alike, we’re taking the most meaningful steps in years towards modernizing our health care system. It’s an investment that will take the long overdue step of computerizing America’s medical records to reduce the duplication and waste that costs billions of health care dollars, and medical errors that cost thousands of lives each year.”

Five years later, the only certainty about the HITECH Act is that it has increased EHR adoption. The benefits of using health IT are still unclear, though many hospitals and practices have successfully melded EHR software into their workflow.

For more on the HITECH Act, see and Government Health IT.

News Releases

HITPC Recommends 7 New Objectives for Stage 3 Meaningful Use

The HIT Policy Committee recently submitted its recommendations for stage 3 of meaningful use, which includes seven new objectives that aren’t included in stage 2. Most of the other recommendations simply enhance or maintain what’s already in play for stage 2.

The seven new objectives recommended are as follows:

  • Order tracking for eligible professionals (EPs)
  • Unique device identifier for EPs and eligible hospitals (EHs)
  • Medication adherence
  • Amendments
  • Patient generated health data for EPs and EHs
  • Notifications for EHs and critical access hospitals (CAHs)
  • Case reports

The HITPC expects to present these recommendations to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) on March 11. The committee takes all feedback very seriously, so there could be significant changes to these recommendations before they become final.

The proposed rule should be released by fall 2014 and the final rule during the first half of 2015. Stage 3 of meaningful use is set to begin in 2017.

For more on HITPC’s recommendations for meaningful use stage 3, click here.

News Releases

Preview of HIMSS14

This year’s Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) annual meeting will be held in Orlando from February 23 to 27. According to iHealthBeat, here are a few things attendees can expect.

Keynote speeches
New national coordinator for health IT Karen DeSalvo and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will both be speaking during the conference.

Conference topics
Patient engagement is expected to be “front and center” at HIMSS workshops and panels, says Deirdre Kennedy from iHealthBeat. Other expected topics include

“We’re really taking a look at how can providers influence the patient to become more involved and to become engaged and active patients in their health care,” said Mary Griskewicz, senior director of health care information systems at HIMSS. “We have a host of folks [who] are going to be participating in sharing their technologies with us looking at rural and underserved populations.”

Patient engagement is required for stage 2 meaningful use, which got off to a bit of a rocky start this year. “We are going to want to make sure that everybody understands the meaningful use criteria and where the meaningful use program really fits,” said Judy Murphy, deputy national coordinator for programs and policy at ONC. “Health IT is not just about electronic health records and meaningful use and, in fact, this simply lays the groundwork for where we need to go with health IT.”

For more on what to expect at HIMSS14, click here.

News Releases

Interoperability: The Top Health IT Priority for 2014

Karen DeSalvo, recently appointed national coordinator for health IT, inherited a huge job and even bigger challenges when she took over the ONC after Farzad Mostashari’s departure. She has defined several top priorities for 2014, interoperability being at the top.

DeSalvo has already outlined a five-step plan that will help ONC improve healthcare and decrease cost through interoperability. The plan is as follows:

  1. Increase end user adoption of health IT
  2. Establish standards so the various technologies can speak to each other
  3. Provide the right incentives for the market to drive this advancement
  4. Make sure personal health information remains private and secure
  5. Provide governance and structure for health IT

(Source: Government Health IT)

The industry has already made significant progress on EHR adoption. Eighty percent of hospitals and over half of office-based physicians are using a basic electronic health records system. But in order for every patient to reap the benefits of healthcare technology, every hospital and practice must be on board with health IT.

ONC has made little progress over the last decade establishing standards for interoperability, primarily because there are so many different EHR systems and none of them talk to each other. Establishing standards and the right incentives to drive interoperability is a logical starting point to achieve widespread interoperability.

For more on DeSalvo’s five-point plan for interoperability, see Government Health IT.

News Releases

CMS Gives EPs an Extra Month to Attest for 2013 Meaningful Use Incentives

CMS has extended the 2013 meaningful use attestation deadline for eligible professionals (EPs) and some hospitals participating in the Medicare portion of the EHR Incentive Program. EPs now have until March 31 (original deadline: February 28) to attest for a 2013 payment. Reporting must still have been completed by Dec. 31, 2013, however.

“The extension will allow more time for providers to submit their meaningful-use data and receive an incentive payment for the 2013 program year, as well as avoid the 2015 payment adjustment,” CMS said.

Some hospitals experienced difficulty attesting on CMS’ website before the November 30, 2013, deadline, so CMS has opened up a “one-time” opportunity for hospitals to retroactively attest. Hospitals wishing to avoid 2015 payment adjustments must contact CMS before March 15.

Neither of these deadline changes affect providers attesting under the Medicaid program.

Source: Modern Healthcare

News Releases

Physicians Not Ready for ICD-10

Despite the ICD-10 implementation date being on the radar for over a year (not counting the attention it got before the deadline was delayed), a majority of physician practices are not ready to switch over to ICD-10 codes. According to a Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) survey, less than 10 percent of physicians will be ready for ICD-10 in October.

MGMA conducted the survey during January, which included responses from over 570 practices. The survey represents the experience of about 21,500 physicians.

Of those polled, 40 percent said they were “somewhat ready” for ICD-10 implementation, 11 percent said “approximately half” of their preparations were completed, and 9 percent had made “significant progress” toward their ICD-10 plans. Nearly 40 percent reported that they hadn’t yet begun implementation.

“The critical coordination that must take place between practices and their software vendor, clearinghouse and health plan partners is simply not happening at the pace required for a seamless implementation,” said Susan L. Turney, president and chief executive officer of MGMA. “Very simply, ICD-10 is behind schedule.”

It appears that physicians aren’t the only ones unprepared for ICD-10, either; the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) hasn’t been inspiring a lot of confidence lately. CMS hasn’t conducted end-to-end testing for the new codes, and has no definitive plans to do so at the moment. MGMA isn’t the first organization to call CMS out on this.

“As the agency overseeing the nation’s largest health plan, it is imperative that CMS show leadership by reversing its position and begin end-to-end provider testing,” said Turney. “The publication of testing schedules, payment policies and readiness levels are all necessary actions for both CMS and practice trading partners in the private sector. Without this preparation, there will be significant increases in cash flow disruptions to practices that will affect the ability to treat patients.”

The MGMA survey also revealed that most practices (80 percent) will need to update their practice management software to accommodate the new codes.

For more on the survey, click here.

News Releases

EHR Incentive Payments Pass $19 Billion

The EHR Incentive Programs finished off 2013 strong. Approximately $1.5 billion in incentives were paid out during December, bringing the grand total of incentives paid to $19.2 billion.

Robert Anthony, deputy director at the CMS Office of eHealth Standards and Service, reported that as of December 31, 2013:

  • Nearly nine out of ten eligible hospitals (EHs) have made a financial commitment to an EHR
  • About 88 percent of EHs have received an EHR incentive payment
  • About 60 percent of Medicare-eligible providers (EPs) are meaningful users of EHRs
  • About 78 percent of Medicaid EPs have received an EHR incentive payment
  • Twenty percent of Medicaid EPs are meaningful users
  • About 60 percent of Medicare and Medicaid EPs have made a financial commitment to an EHR
  • Over 340,000 Medicare and Medicaid EPs have received an EHR incentive payment

(Source: Government Health IT)

Former national coordinator for health IT Farzad Mostashari predicted in 2012 that the government would pay out $20 billion in incentives before 2015. At the rate the program is going, it won’t be long before Mostashari’s projection is met.

News Releases

New Federal Rule Grants Patients Direct Access to Lab Results

Advances in healthcare technology like electronic medical records (EMR) has prompted many changes in healthcare. Among them, the need for patients to have direct access to their lab test results.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a federal rule that removes legal barriers that prevent lab agencies from sharing test results directly with patients. “The right to access personal health information is a cornerstone of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule,” said HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a press release. “Information like lab results can empower patients to track their health progress, make decisions with their health care professionals, and adhere to important treatment plans.”

Patients can still access their lab reports through their doctors, but the new rule gives patients another option for obtaining this information, with stronger protections on their privacy.

The final rule is expected to be published on the Federal Register this Thursday, after which the rule will become effective after 60 days.