The certified products will be offered to providers who wish to implement certified electronic health record technology and achieve meaningful use in time be eligible for 2011-2012 incentives. Read more here.
Hospitals must "possess" electronic health record technology certified against all 24 meaningful use objectives, and "demonstrate" meaningful use of 19 objectives in order to qualify for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments and avoid future payment penalties, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology said today in updated guidance. To possess the technology, a hospital must have either the physical technology or a contract that provides "a legally enforceable right…to access and use" the technology at its discretion, ONC states.
The degree to which a hospital implements the technology is not a factor in determining "possession." The guidance can be found in ONC FAQs 17 and 21, which revise previous ONC guidance in response to concerns from the American Hospital Association and others that requiring providers to implement EHRs certified against all 24 objectives would remove flexibility provided in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' final rule, delay hospitals' attempts to achieve meaningful use, increase costs and negatively impact competition in the vendor marketplace.
"We are very pleased that ONC heard our concerns and has provided additional guidance on this question," said Chantal Worzala, director of policy at the AHA. "We will be carefully reviewing this complex new guidance in the coming weeks and monitoring how the market responds to determine if it can be operationalized."
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The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology on Dec. 10 published a request for information regarding a report released this week by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, and the report's implications for the nation's health information technology agenda and ONC's implementation of the HITECH Act. The report recommends that ONC and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services pursue health information exchange based on adoption of a "universal exchange language" for use in health care.
ONC will accept comments on the report through Jan. 17.
About 41% of the 191 chief information officers responding to the November survey work for community hospitals. Across all hospital types, 15% (29 respondents) said that they expect to qualify for incentive payments in the first six months of the program, down from 28% in August. Expectations that hospitals would qualify for incentive payments by April 2011 declined across all bed-size groups, most significantly for smaller organizations.
Eight in 10 respondents continued to have concerns related to meeting the EHR meaningful use objectives and qualifying for the payments.
An HIT Policy Committee work group is seeking public input on quality standard concepts it is developing for the next stages of meaningful use, which cover patient safety, clinical efficiency and other areas. The comments, required by Dec. 23, "are important to shaping public policy on the future of e-measure development," the group's chairman said.
In a letter this week to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the American Hospital Association voiced its concern that a frequently asked questions document posted on the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology's website significantly limits the flexibility offered in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' final rule governing "meaningful use" of electronic health records. The FAQ states that to get incentive payments and avoid future payment penalties hospitals will need to have deployed an EHR that has been certified against all 24 objectives of meaningful use, not just the 19 that the CMS rule requires them to use to demonstrate meaningful use.
This means that hospitals will need to have in place EHRs certified for functionality beyond that required to demonstrate meaningful use, delaying many hospitals' efforts to become meaningful users, increasing costs unnecessarily, and negatively impacting competition in the vendor marketplace. In its letter, AHA urges HHS to use its regulatory discretion to clarify and implement consistently the ONC and CMS rules in a way that fully realizes the flexibility hospitals were provided by CMS and "requires hospitals to have EHR technology certified against only those 19 objectives they will use to demonstrate meaningful use."
AHA encourages hospitals to evaluate how ONC's interpretation will affect their ability to meet the meaningful use and certification requirements and determine any necessary revisions to their strategy for becoming a meaningful user.
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