Health Information Management

CMS extends meaningful use hardship exception deadline

APCs Insider, October 17, 2014

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By Steven Andrews, Editor
Much like the ICD-10 implementation date, the deadlines associated with electronic health record (EHR) meaningful use attestation have frequently shifted. CMS recently extended the deadline for eligible hospitals and professionals to submit meaningful use hardship exception applications to November 30, 2014.
Previously, CMS set deadlines of April 1, 2014, for eligible hospitals, and July 1, 2014, for eligible professionals. 
Eligible hospitals and professionals can submit a hardship application by the new deadline if they were unable to fully implement 2014 edition certified EHR technology (CEHRT) due to delays in the availability of the technology. In addition, the application process is open to eligible professionals who could not attest to meaningful use by October 1, 2014, and eligible hospitals that could not attest by July 1, 2014, using the options in the CMS 2014 CEHRT Flexibility Rule. 
The Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 requires that CMS apply payment adjustments for eligible hospitals, eligible professionals, and critical access hospitals that are not meaningful users of CEHRT. However, the act also permits CMS to conduct case-by-case reviews of organizations that apply for hardship exceptions. 
This extension was supported by many healthcare associations and providers. CMS already received approximately 44,000 hardship exemptions as of July 1, 2014. Providers cited problems with technological interoperability and other software glitches as major impediments.
I spoke with staff in a small physician office that's part of a large hospital system about the process. They reported repeated frustrations with trying to meet the October 1, 2014 deadline, including websites not loading or timing out and erasing all the data already entered.
But the shifting deadlines and regulations for meaningful use reporting might not be finished yet. U.S. representatives recently introduced H.R. 5481, which would permit the use of a three-month EHR reporting period to demonstrate meaningful use for 2015 as opposed to a full year. The bill has support from several industry groups.
For more information, see the CMS EHR Incentive Programs website.

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