Stage 3 of the EHR Incentive Program (commonly known as “meaningful use”) starts on a voluntary basis in 2017 with a 90-day reporting period on eight objectives and their corresponding measures. Stage 3 requirements then become mandatory in 2018. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which administers the program, says that achieving Stage 3 meaningful use will lead eligible providers and hospitals to a state of enhanced interoperability.
The objective areas of Stage 3 are:
- Protect electronic health information
- Electronic prescribing
- Clinical decision support
- Computerized provider order entry
- Patient electronic access to health information
- Coordination of care through patient engagement
- Health information exchange
- Public health reporting
Those last three measures signify “the heart and soul of what we think of as interoperability,” according to Robert Anthony, deputy director of the Quality Measurement and Value-Based Incentives Group at CMS.
The Stage 3 rules, although published in the Federal Register, are subject to a 60-day public comment period that expires Dec. 16. CMS will take comments into consideration before releasing the definitive version of Stage 3 sometime around the middle of 2016.
For now, we know that the care coordination objective requires a provider to send a secure message to 25 percent of all unique patients seen. The health information exchange objective focuses on sending a summary-of-care record electronically for more than 50 percent of transitions of care or referrals. And the public health reporting objective requires the provider or hospital to “actively engage” with a public health agency to submit data electronically for two measures such as immunizations and lab results.
Upon release of the Stage 3 rules, CMS said its intention was to emphasize measures that focus on interoperability instead of data entry. “We modified the measures so that more than 60 percent rely upon exchange of health information, compared to 33 percent previously,” the agency said in a Stage 3 fact sheet.
And since rules for 2015 Edition certified EHR technology were released in tandem with the Stage 3 meaningful use rules, developers of health IT products will have more than two years to work on new products that support program requirements. For instance, providers and hospitals can expect incorporation of application programming interfaces (APIs) into EHR technology to support patients’ access to health information — including via mobile devices. The 2015 Edition final rule also raises expectations for strengthened system security.
NetDirector, with its recently announced HealthData Exchange solution, already offers technology that meshes with the government’s framework for broad-reaching interoperability. Health Data Exchange enables secure, cloud-based data and document exchange between providers and vendors’ systems. As Stage 3 envisions, HealthData Exchange offers physicians’ and hospitals’ EHR systems a streamlined way to interoperate with other caregivers, radiology/imaging centers, immunization registries, labs, pharmacies, and even patient portals.
While we don’t yet have all the details of Stage 3 pending public comment, we do know that meaningful use will travel a path of heightened interoperability to reach the program’s final destination.
To learn how your organization can achieve interoperability faster with fewer in-house resources and lower set-up costs, request your free demo today.