Meaningful Use Hardship Exceptions Extended

Featured imageCMS has reopened the submission period for hardship exception applications, allowing eligible providers (EPs), like you, one last chance to avoid the 1% Medicare payment penalty in 2015. The new deadline is November 30 at 9:59 pm Pacific. You must complete the Hardship Exception Application and email it to ehrhardship@provider-resources.com.

Chasing Deadlines

October 1 was a frenzied rush as thousands of EPs attempted to attest to meaningful use to avoid the 1% Medicare penalty in 2015. The crushing volume strained the attestation system as well as the call centers of EHR vendors. Frustration increased when EPs attempted to attest to the 2011 Edition criteria under the recent delay because CMS’s attestation system had not been retrofitted to accommodate the revised rules.

Breathing a Collective Sigh of Relief

To alleviate the situation, CMS has decided to reopen the submission period for hardship exception applications after a three-month hiatus. EPs who were stuck in the snarl of October 1 will surely appreciate this extension.

Reading the Fine Print

This extension is not an outright postponement of Medicare penalties in 2015. To be eligible for a hardship exception, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You were unable to fully implement a 2014 Edition certified EHR because your certified software was not available soon enough for you to install, train, and use prior to July 1
  • You were unable to attest by October 1, 2014, using the flexibility options provided in the 2014 Flexibility Rule

Visit the Payment Adjustments and Hardship Exceptions webpage for more information about Medicare EHR Incentive Program payment adjustments.

EHR Optimization: Making the Most of a Disruptive Opportunity

“Physicians that move into the world of EHRs are reminiscent of when Dorothy entered Oz, going from a black & white world into color, says Steve Baker, president of Eyefinity. ‘Moving from paper

Steve Baker, President, Eyefinity

Steve Baker, President, Eyefinity

charts to EHR technologies is a very different world indeed, one that has new and strange things much like what Dorothy experienced.’” Read more for tips and ideas on how to optimize your EHR and make the most of a disruptive opportunity in this The Progressive Physician Article.

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Meaningful Use Incentives and Penalties Made Simple

oct1It’s October 1, and meaningful use is a hot topic. Here are the scenarios that you can expect:

First time Medicare providers who did not attest on October 1, 2014 will be assessed a 1% penalty in Medicare reimbursements beginning January 1, 2015. That penalty will increase by 1% every year, up to a maximum of 5% reimbursement adjustment.

What are your options?

  • Providers can stop the penalty by using a meaningful use CEHRT.
  • Providers who exercised the hardship exemption, which was available earlier this year, will NOT be assessed the penalty in 2015.
    • Those providers can start their attestation in 2015 and still receive an incentive.
      • Up to $8,000 in 2015
      • Maximum of $12,000 for their last two years of meaningful use participation

 

For more information, visit www.eyefinity.com/mu2

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Last Chance for Meaningful Use Incentives, Avoid Penalties in 2016

Avoid 2016 PenaltiesOctober 1 marks another important meaningful use deadline—especially if you missed the opportunity to begin on July 1 and avoid the 1% Medicare payment adjustment in 2015. October 1 is the last day to begin meaningful use and avoid a larger penalty—a 2% adjustment in 2016.

Additionally, if you begin by October 1 and attest by February 28, 2015, you are eligible for the remaining Medicare incentive payments—up to $24,000 over the next three years based on a percentage of your Medicare Part B billings.

Continue reading

On Task with Security Risk Analysis

17317DR_MU_core9_shadowCore Measure 9

It seems like every time you turn around, there’s another large security breach. The results can be devastating for not only the business that was hacked, but their customers as well. The risk isn’t limited to retailers – it exists anywhere customer information is used, accessed, or stored. With that in mind, core measure 9 was created and included in meaningful use.  As evidence of the gravitas of this goal, there are no exclusions to this measure.

We all know how important it is to protect electronic health information, and the utmost care must be exercised to protect patients’ medical records.

Defined and Deciphered
Core measure 9 seems like a simple concept, but can be deceptively complex. The goal is to protect patients’ electronic health information that was created or is maintained by certified EHR through the implementation of appropriate technical capabilities.

Per CMS, the provider must:

“…conduct or review a security risk analysis in accordance with the requirements under 45 CFR 164.308(a) (1), including addressing the encryption/security of data stored in CEHRT in accordance with requirements under 45 CFR 164.312 (a)(2)(iv) and 45 CFR 164.306(d)(3), and implement security updates as necessary and correct identified security deficiencies as part of the provider’s risk management process for EPs.”

Huh? Exactly!

It seems daunting to decipher what the requirements are, much less figure out how to actually accomplish the task.  Essentially, you’re required to perform a security risk analysis to ensure that your patients’ medical records are secure, and to minimize the risk of a security breach.

The Challenge
Part of the challenge to this measure is the broad nature of the measure itself. Fulfilling the measure doesn’t rely on a simple security feature that can be enabled or disabled. Rather, practices must conduct—at least annually—a comprehensive security risk analysis in accordance with the requirements under HIPAA, and correct all identified security deficiencies.  There is a full list of security criteria that must be met and/or corrected, however, a simple checklist will not satisfy the requirements. Each of the criteria must be sufficiently documented, so that in the event of an audit, you will pass. Also, there are no exclusions allowed for this measure, and since it’s not a percentage based measure, there is no CMS reporting window to track your progress.

Success Can Be Yours
Core measure 9 is essentially the same as core measure 15 from Stage 1. If you’ve already succeeded at this measure in Stage 1, you’re well on your way to success in Stage 2. Unfortunately, because of the broad nature of the measure, it’s also one of the more difficult challenges to master. This is not a measure that can be conquered simply with your EHR system. Still, this is a measure that is attainable. Given the complexities, and myriad of factors to consider, we will take on the required tasks in Part 2 of “On Task with Security Risk Analysis.” Stay tuned.

In the meantime, if you have questions or need help with meaningful use, contact us at meaningfuluse@eyefinity.com.

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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

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