The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) EHR Incentive Program—also known as Meaningful Use or MU—initially provided incentives to accelerate the adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) to meet program requirements.
Now, physicians who fail to participate in MU will receive a penalty in the form of reduced Medicare reimbursements. Physicians must use certified electronic health records technology (CEHRT) and demonstrate meaningful use through an attestation process at the end of each MU reporting period to avoid the penalty.
Avoiding the 2017 Meaningful Use Penalty
The AMA is encouraging all physicians subject to the 2015 Medicare MU program to apply for a hardship exception. CMS has stated that it will broadly accept hardship exemptions because of the delayed publication of the program regulations. Applying for the hardship will not prevent a physician from earning an incentive. Applications for physicians are due July 1, 2016. Learn how to avoid the 2017 Meaningful Use penalty (PDF, members only).
Meaningful Use: Overview
CMS developed a program that requires physicians using CEHRT to capture, exchange and report specific clinical data and quality measures. The program, which began in 2011, evolved over the course of 3 stages:
- Stage 1 established the base requirements for electronic capturing of clinical data.
- Stage 2 encouraged the use of EHRs for increased exchange of information and continuous quality improvement at the point of care.
- Modified Stage 2, released in October 2015, consolidated Stages 1 and 2 into a new program. These are the current requirements all physicians should follow. While some changes were made to reduce the complexity of the measures, many of the objectives were carried over from Stage 2. View a summary of 2015–2017 Meaningful Use (MU) Final Rule (PDF, sign-in required) requirements.
The requirements for Stage 3 have been published by CMS. Starting in 2018, all eligible physicians will be required to participate in Stage 3. A summary of the Meaningful Use Stage 3 and 2015 certification rules requirements (PDF, sign-in required) is available.
MU will eventually become part of the Merit-Based Payment System (MIPS). To learn more about MIPS, visit the Medicare Merit-based Incentive Program page.
Demonstrating Meaningful Use
Physicians participating in MU for the first time in 2016 will not qualify for any MU incentive payments but will be subject to a penalty if they do not participate.
All physicians participating in MU in 2016 must demonstrate the 10 new Modified Stage 2 requirements (PDF). CMS has developed a webpage on 2016 Program Requirements with detailed and downloadable lists of each requirement. CMS has also posted their presentations on Modified Stage 2 and Stage 3 requirements from the HIMSS 2016 Annual Conference.
To help physicians meet MU requirements, the AMA compiled tip sheets on some of the more complex measures.