HHS proposes 90-day MU attestation period, easier patient engagement

HHS proposes shortening the Meaningful Use reporting period to 90 days in 2015, cutting the “view, download, transmit” requirement to a single patient.

With most of the health IT universe getting ready to converge on Chicago this weekend for the annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference, federal officials on Friday issued some pleasant news for many of them — and a long read for the trip — by releasing a plan to shorten the 2015 Meaningful Use reporting period to 90 days.

In a 210-page proposed rulemaking — naturally, put out late on a Friday afternoon — HHS also is taking Meaningful Use compliance out of the hands of patients in Stage 2. Instead of requiring 5 percent of patients to “view, download or transmit” to a third party their own medical data through a portal or personal health record, just one single patient will have to do so during the reporting period. “This would demonstrate the capability is fully enabled and workflows to support the action have been established by the provider,” the proposed rule states.

Additionally, HHS plans on eliminating “reporting requirements on measures which have become redundant, duplicative or topped out through advancements in EHR function and provider performance” since Meaningful Use began in 2011.

Starting in 2016, the agency will puts hospitals and physicians on the same schedule in the EHR incentive program by switching hospitals to the calendar year, rather than the federal fiscal year that begins each Oct. 1. This will give hospitals an extra three months to achieve Meaningful Use and avoid Medicare penalties for noncompliance.

What the proposal does not call for is an end to the pass/fail nature of Meaningful Use. This already has upset at least two industry groups.

“Now that we are well into the penalty phase of the program, we do not believe providers who make good-faith efforts should be penalized for missing 1 percent on one threshold. Rather, policymakers should acknowledge providers who invest resources to become meaningful users, but fall short of perfection, by limiting penalties to those providers who clearly did not make the effort,” the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) and Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems (AMDIS) said in a joint statement.

HHS will accept public comments on the plan for 60 days following official publication in the Federal Register, which is scheduled for April 15.

If this proposal goes through as planned, expect HHS to cut the patient engagement threshold in Stage 3. Last month, HHS called for raising the 5 percent requirement to 25 percent in Stage 3, which starts in 2017 or 2018, depending on when a provider first achieves Stage 2.