Reminder: Public Comment Period Open for Meaningful Use NPRM

Last month, CMS and ONC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking ("NPRM") which would grant flexibility to providers participating in Meaningful Use who are having trouble implementing 2014 Editions of their CEHRT. The public comment period is open until July 21, at 11:59pm and I encourage you to take a few minutes to submit your comments, concerns and questions online.  All of them. 

The general gist of the NPRM is that CMS and ONC have finally acknowledged the frustration and concern of vendors and providers with having 2014 Edition CEHRT up and running in time to demonstrate Meaningful Use for the 2014 reporting period.  Despite concerns regarding insufficient timing after the Stage 2 rule's publication for vendors to certify to the 2014 requirements and roll-out upgraded products to their consumers (not to mention all the steps taken on the provider side for implementation), CMS plowed ahead with its original timeframes and requirements.  

CMS now seems to be regretting this decision and is offering potential solutions for all providers, regardless of Stage.  Can't implement 2014 Editions in time? Don't worry about it, says CMS, just take your pick from one of the following options:   

  • Stage 1 (2013 Definition) using 2011 Edition CEHRT, or using a combination of 2011 and 2014 Edition CEHRT;
  • Stage 1 (2014+ Definition) using 2014 Edition CEHRT; or
  • Stage 2 (2014+ Definition) using 2014 Edition CEHRT.

This is not entirely a "get-out-of-jail free card" from CMS. A provider would need to be able to demonstrate that it had trouble fully implementing 2014 Edition CEHRT required to demonstrate Meaningful Use in its applicable stage of participation.  

There are plenty of problems with CMS's proposed solution.  First of all, the public comment period is open until July 21 at 11:59pm. That means there won't be any formal action taken by CMS until the end of July at the earliest.  This is an entire month into the last available reporting period for hospitals in FY 2014.  

Secondly, providers that have been working tirelessly to implement the necessary changes for the 2014 Edition CEHRT may not be able to reverse gears at this point and go back to the 2011 Editions where needed. And third, (but certainly not the last of the concerns), even if they can switch gears, all providers still need to be ready to go with 2014 Edition CEHRT for the 2015 reporting period.  For hospitals, this means midnight on October 1, 2014.  

CMS may have had good intentions, but the proposed solution is creating more confusion than alleviating concerns. Let's hope we see some more clarity in the final rule, whatever it may look like.  Until then, keep calm and carry on.