Things change frequently in the world of healthcare, and it looks like the new 2015 EHR Meaningful Use guidelines are no exception to this axiom. On February 21, The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) released details of the proposed voluntary 2015 version of EHR regulations. This new approach represents a change to the way that the ONC will regulate the meaningful use of electronic health records.
Changes In The 2015 Edition Of EHR Meaningful Use
The 2015 version of EHR certification represents the beginning of ONC’s shift to publishing these rules more often and in a more incremental fashion. ONC expresses a desire to update EHR regulations every 12 to 18 months. There are several goals behind this change:
- Faster adaptation to new technology designed to make health IT certification more efficient
- Allowing the ONC to fix problems with these regulations more quickly
- Making new regulations easier to integrate into the existing operations of medical offices
Not much has changed from the 2014 Edition of EHR to the 2015 Edition. 52% of Ambulatory criteria remain the same, and only 15% of both Inpatient and Ambulatory criteria is new. Perhaps most significant characteristic of the new rule is that the 2015 Edition of EHR certification is completely voluntary. Medical facilities and offices that are certified under the 2014 Edition of Meaningful Use would not have to upgrade to the 2015 standards to receive incentives. This option was designed to allow healthcare providers the opportunity to move forward on their own pace. National health IT coordinator Karen DeSalvo stated that the goal of the proposed 2015 criteria is to efficiently respond to stakeholder feedback and make it possible for providers to exchange electronic health records in a safer, more secure manner.
The Medical Community’s Response So Far
With 2014 certification deadlines still looming and the 2015 EHR MU rule still in the proposal stage, it is too early to tell what impact the response from the medical community will have on these new EHR guidelines. The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) expects the final 2015 Edition to be finalized this summer. The ONC is currently receiving and considering comments on the proposed rule.
So far, however, many in the healthcare community are skeptical of or outright opposed to the 2015 EHR certification guidelines. Marla Durben Hirsch at FierceEMR wrote earlier this month that the new 2015 Edition was a “lead balloon” because of negative responses from organizations like Kaiser Permanente and the American Hospital Association. Kaiser rejected the ONC’s definition of the 2015 as “incremental” and recommended that the 2015 edition not be implemented, while the AHA worries that voluntary compliance will only make things more complicated. Diana Manos at Healthcare IT News reported that the American Medical Association wrote a letter to DeSalvo calling the 2015 program requirements “overly rigid,” and claiming that they were not focused on establishing usable, interoperable systems.
Faced with so much pressure from the medical community, there is a chance that the ONC will revise the proposed 2015 Edition from its current state. Only time will tell if the final 2015 EHR certification guidelines will change and to what degree. Be sure to keep an eye on these news stories to understand how EHR certification developments may impact your hospital or facility.
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