Catch a Break – Hardship Exceptions to Meaningful Use

Meaningful_Use_sticknoteAre you a Medicare provider who has yet to participate in meaningful use? If so, an important deadline is approaching quickly. July 1 is the deadline to begin meaningful use Stage 1 to attest before Medicare payment adjustments take place in 2015. That’s right, you must have installed a 2014 Edition certified EHR, begin your three-month reporting period on July 1, and attest on October 1 to avoid the 1% penalty.

If you’re in your second year of Stage 1 or beginning Stage 2 in 2014, you have two opportunities to begin your reporting period: July 1 and October 1.

Are you afraid you’re not going to make it?

Not to worry. The CMS recognizes that there are valid reasons that render an undue hardship or eliminate feasibility for a practice to participate. Those valid reasons will prevent payment adjustments for a year. Exceptions are segmented into six categories:

  • Infrastructure – EPs practicing in an area where internet access is not available or feasible to attain
  • New EPs – EPs who began their practice without sufficient time to begin meaningful use and attest before 2015
  • Unforeseen Circumstances – In the event of a natural disaster or other unforeseeable event
  • Patient Interaction - EPs who do not have face-to-face or telemedicine interaction with patients, or who do not need to follow-up with their patients
  • Multiple Locations – Applies when it causes the EP to lose control over the availability of certified EHR for more than 50% of patient encounters
  • Vendor Issues – EPs whose EHR vendor has been unable to attain 2014 ONC certification for their EHR*

Still not sure if you qualify for the hardship exception? Use the CMS online tool to determine if you qualify. Don’t sit back just yet. You must file for an exception by July 1, 2014, to avoid penalties in 2015. Exceptions are valid for one year and then must be renewed.

If your hardship exception is approved you’ll skip your current year of meaningful use and advance to the next year when you resume. For example, if you were scheduled to demonstrate your second year of Stage 1 in 2014, you would skip to your first year of Stage 2 in 2015.

While some providers may file a hardship exception to postpone their meaningful use adoption and see if a recent CMS proposal will allow them attest, there is no guarantee your exception will be approved. Our 2014 Edition certified products are ready and available now to help you meet your meaningful use requirements.

For more information and specific details about the hardship exception, view the CMS document outlining meaningful use timelines and exceptions. And of course, if you have any questions about meaningful use, contact us at meaningfuluse@eyefinity.com.

 

* While 717 EHR vendors offered certified products for the 2011 Edition of meaningful use, only 151 offer certified products for the 2014 Edition. Eyefinity’s EHR solutions are currently certified to meet the ONC 2014 Edition criteria and support both Stage 1 and 2 meaningful use. [Source: Certified Health IT Product List, accessed June 24, 2014, comparing 2011 to 2014 complete ambulatory EHRs]

The Core of the Matter

Core Measure 7 BadgePatient Electronic Access

How has your meaningful use experience been so far? Hopefully you’ve been breezing through it, but even so, you probably still have questions and would benefit from some interpretation along the way.

Recently, we tackled Core Measure 17 (CM17), voted the most challenging measure for eye care providers (ECPs)*, so let’s address Core Measure 7 (CM7), which relates closely to CM17.

Requirements of CM7
Core measure 7 consists of two measures, both of which must be achieved and are direct functions of the patient portal. The first requires that online access be provided to over 50% of all unique patients seen during the demonstration period. The second requires that over 5% of all unique patients during that same demonstration period view, download, or transmit their health information to another provider or any other 3rd party.

What it means to you
If you’re using a complete EHR solution, meeting the first requirement of CM7 shouldn’t be difficult. However, some providers may find it a little tougher to meet the second requirement. Like CM17, the challenge lies with the fact that it’s out of your hands – you are depending on the actions of others to fulfill this requirement. The challenge grows if you have patients who are less technologically inclined, or if you’re in a rural area where internet connectivity may be less common.

Conquering the Challenge
CM7 is achievable, even though it’s based on the actions of others. The easier it is for your patients, and the more benefit they receive, the more likely they are to appreciate and embrace the opportunity to access their health information. Here are some examples that might help you:

  • Make sure you have the correct email address for your patient. You can take care of this when the patient checks in for their appointment.
  • Remind your patients that they can view their health records and test results, as well as communicate directly with you electronically.
  • Print a reminder on the back of your appointment cards, with instructions on how to log in and create an account.
  • Set up a desktop or laptop computer in your waiting room, and designate one of your staff to assist patients with establishing their account and accessing their records.

Remember, by starting early – even before your demonstration period – you’ll have momentum on your side and be well on the way to fulfilling this core measure. Check your progress regularly to assure that you’re on track for success. Be sure you’re using not only a complete EHR solution, but one that provides a meaningful use calculator to help you gauge your progress. This core measure, more than any other, empowers patients to stay informed and be involved in their own healthcare. Next stop, success!

Check back here frequently for help with more of the MU2 core measures. And if you have any questions, contact us at MeaningfulUse@eyefinity.com or visit us online at eyefinity.com/mu2.

 

*Voted by us

Enhancing the Patient Experience – Is EHR Really Necessary?

Steve Baker, President, Eyefinity

Steve Baker, President, Eyefinity

There’s a lot of noise and disagreement about electronic health records (EHR) right now. For some it may seem like there is no end in sight. For others, this is not as big a deal as some are making it out to be.

 
Read the four key things that a certified EHR can help you do to improve your business and enhance patient care.

Read full article republished with permission from Western Pennsylvania Healthcare News.

Three Things About Meaningful Use That Will Affect Your Practice

Steve Baker, President, Eyefinity

Steve Baker, President, Eyefinity

Do you know the three conditions that will make a difference on how meaningful use benefits your practice and your patients? Read more in this article by Steve Baker, president of Eyefinity.

Meaningful Use Delays Proposed

2014 CalendarCMS proposed changes to meaningful use program.

Still have concerns about your ability to meet the requirements to attest for meaningful use? The CMS has stepped in with a proposal to give health care providers a little more time. But before you start the celebration, remember this is simply a proposed change, and if approved, will not be in effect until August at the earliest.

How this change affects you.

CMS has proposed a change that affects the software system you are required to use in 2014, which in turn affects 2014 attestations. If passed:

  • 2011 CEHRT certified products will still be valid for meaningful use attestation in 2014.
  • You may postpone updating your software system to an ONC 2014 certified product for three months, or August 2014 at the earliest.
  • If you were on track to begin Stage 2 in 2014, you may continue to demonstrate Stage 1 criteria until 2015. You may use 2011 CEHRT software in 2014 as long as it is updated to the 2013 Stage 1 objectives and measures.
  • You may begin attestation for Stage 2 in 2015, which will require an ONC 2014 certified product.

Remember, if passed the delay will not be indefinite. There will come a time when Stage 2 criteria will be required to attest using an ONC 2014 Edition certified product. View the official document.

OfficeMate/ExamWRITER V11.1 is fully certified to meet all meaningful use requirements for Stage 1 or Stage 2 attestation. Learn more about OfficeMate/ExamWRITER, or to upgrade your OfficeMate/ExamWRITER to the most current version, visit MyInstallCenter.

Still have questions? Eyefinity is tracking meaningful use news closely and will keep you informed as developments occur. If you have any questions, contact us at MeaningfulUse@eyefinity.com.

April Is Important Month for Meaningful Use

It's AprilApril 1 marks the second quarter for Medicare providers to begin meaningful use. No matter if you are a Medicaid or Medicare provider, attesting involves three months of reporting for meaningful use in 2014.

If you’re participating in the Medicare EHR Incentive Program, the three months must begin at the start of the quarter (i.e., January 1, April 1, July 1,or October 1). Whether you are beginning Stage 1, continuing Stage 1,or beginning Stage 2, you must update your software prior to your three-month reporting period.

The EHR Incentive Program requires eligible providers to integrate meaningful use of certified EHR technologies into their practices in stages. Each stage requires providers to meet specific measures and attest to their completion. Many providers began Stage 1 in 2011 and 2012. Those providers are required to begin Stage 2 in 2014. Providers who began Stage 1 in 2013 will continue with Stage 1 in 2014. Providers who have not participated in the program by 2014 will be subject to Medicare penalties in 2015.

Check out Eyefinity’s Meaningful Use Resource Page for helpful information about Meaningful Use 2014 Edition and certified product solutions.

Health IQ interview with Eyefinity president

The move to electronic health records (EHR), Meaningful Use (MU), and how all of this affects both providers and patients is an important topic. But does EHR and MU create any benefits for providers and patients?
Find out in this Health IQ interview with Eyefinity president, Steve Baker.

Take the Guesswork Out of Meaningful Use – Part 1

To Do: Meaningful UseIn one of our last blog pieces, we talked about timing for meaningful use. You don’t have to start January 1, but rather based on what works for you and your practice. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced that Stage 3 would be postponed until 2017, but this does not affect your Stage 2 requirements.

In the meantime, there are a couple of other items that providers are talking about:

  • What is the difference between Stage 1 MU and Stage 2 MU?
  • Is there a difference between a “complete” and “modular” certified Electronic Health Record (EHR)?

Short answer? Yes. There is a difference in both counts. We’ll take a look at modular vs. complete EHR in this piece, and view meaningful use stage differences in future blogs.

CMS states that a certified EHR, “gives assurance to purchasers and other users that an EHR system or module offers the necessary technological capability, functionality, and security to help them meet the meaningful use criteria.” Having a certified product also helps you know that your systems can work with other systems and are secure.

A complete CEHRT (certified electronic health record technology) solution can help you meet, at a minimum, all of the meaningful use criteria. A modular product can help you attest to some of the objectives (but not all) and requires the use of other certified product(s) to meet all of the meaningful use criteria.

Which one should you use? The complete CEHRT or EHR module(s)? It depends on what makes sense for you and your business. To help take the guessing out of this, it is important to work with a company, like Eyefinity, that has experience and a successful track record to help you.

For more information about certified EHRs, you can visit HealthIT.gov. You can also go here for information on meaningful use.

Worried about Attesting for Meaningful Use?

Attestation Table 2014

This graphic shows meaningful use timing.

If you’re concerned about meaningful use (MU) and how you’re going to achieve the objectives in Stage 1 and/or Stage 2, you’re not alone. If you’re a little unsure about the timing of it all, there is plenty of time to get going. And – if you’ve already attested for Stage 1, then you’re right on track for Stage 2.

As a reminder, or introduction for those who aren’t as familiar with the topic, MU is defined as positively affecting patient care through the use of certified EHRs. There are currently three stages of meaningful use (with future stages still in planning/definition):

  • Stage 1 started in 2011
  • Stage 2 begins in 2014
  • Stage 3 begins in 2017

Each stage of MU has required objectives and a menu of “optional” objectives from which to choose. Stage 2 for example has a total of 20 objectives that must be met by eligible providers. This includes 17 core objectives and 3 menu objectives to choose from a list of 6. To receive Federal incentive funds, you must successfully attest.

The most frequent question we’re hearing now is, “What is the timing to attest?” You don’t have to start in January. If you decide that later in the year is better for you and your practice, you can do that as well. There are also some timing requirement differences between Medicaid and Medicare that you should be aware of:

  • Medicare: 3-month requirement starting January 1, April 1, July 1, or October 1.
  • Medicaid: any uninterrupted 90-day period

Eyefinity is ready to help you with your MU planning and requirements as well as all aspects of managing your practice. Learn more here.

(Note: CMS has extended Stage 2 MU attesting through 2016. We’ll update information as we have more specifics.)

The Top Three Things that You Can Do to Minimize the Challenges of Meaningful Use

Steve-BakerWith all the talk about Electronic Health Records (EHR) in the medical industry these days, it is easy to be overwhelmed about the complexity. One aspect of EHR is Meaningful Use (MU) and the associated three stages for attesting. MU presents some challenges, but it can also be an opportunity to improve your business and enrich your patient relationships.

Here are the top 3 things you can do to keep moving forward and ultimately turn those challenges into positive opportunities:

  1. Evaluate your situation
  2. Develop a plan
  3. Use a Certified EHR system

Read more in this article by Eyefinity® president Steve Baker.

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