Feds to ease up on electronic health records program

Federal regulators announced their intention Thursday to ease up on the meaningful use electronic health records (EHR) program, one week after a coalition of 35 medical societies called for major changes.

In a blog post, senior Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) official Patrick Conway said the agency is working on “multiple rulemaking tracks” to adjust the program based on provider feedback.

{mosads}”The new rule, expected this spring, would be intended to be responsive to provider concerns about software implementation, information exchange readiness, and other meaningful use related concerns in 2015,” wrote Conway, the agency’s deputy administrator for innovation and quality.

While short on details, the blog post said new guidance would realign hospital EHR reporting periods to the calendar year, seek to reduce complexity and lessen providers’ reporting burdens, and shorten the EHR reporting period in 2015 to 90 days.

The rule will be separate from proposed regulations implementing Stage 3 of Meaningful Use, the blog post said.

Medical providers have struggled to meet deadlines under the Meaningful Use program, which aims to accelerate the U.S. healthcare industry’s transition to electronic record keeping.

Supporters say the program is necessary for U.S. patients and healthcare providers to reap the benefits of EHRs, which can include fewer harmful medical errors.

Critics, including the American Medical Association (AMA), say the program is negatively impacting patient safety and hampering providers’ ability to deliver care.

AMA President-Elect Steven J. Stack praised the announcement in a statement.

“EHRs are intended to help physicians improve care for their patients, but unfortunately, today’s EHR certification standards and the stringent requirements of the Meaningful Use program do not support that goal and decrease efficiency,” Stack said.

“We hope the new rule will be issued expediently to provide the flexibility needed to allow more physicians to successfully participate in the Meaningful Use program.”

—This post was updated at 3:31 p.m. with the AMA’s statement.

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