CMS issues final rules on Meaningful Use

On July 13, 2010, CMS issued the final rule defining "meaningful use" and establishing the parameters and requirements for eligible professionals, hospitals and other providers to receive incentive payments provided under the HITECH Act for widespread adoption of electronic health records.  According to CMS, the key changes included in the final rule (from the meaningful use NPRM published in the Federal Register on January 13, 2010) include:

  • Greater flexibility with respect to eligible professionals and hospitals in meeting and reporting certain objectives for demonstrating meaningful use. The final rule divides the objectives into a “core” group of required objectives and a “menu set” of procedures from which providers may choose any five to defer in 2011-2012. This gives providers latitude to pick their own path toward full EHR implementation and meaningful use.
  • An objective of providing condition-specific patient education resources for both EPs and eligible hospitals and the objective of recording advance directives for eligible hospitals, in line with recommendations from the Health Information Technology Policy Committee.
  • A definition of a hospital-based EP as one who performs substantially all of his or her services in an inpatient hospital setting or emergency room only, which conforms to the Continuing Extension Act of 2010
  • CAHs within the definition of acute care hospital for the purpose of incentive program eligibility under Medicaid.

You can view the PDF of the final rule on Meaningful Use by clicking here.

You can learn more about it from the HHS press release by clicking here.  Also, the New England Journal of Medicine published an excellent summary by Dr. Blumenthal of the changes included in the final rule; you can find this article by clicking here.

At the same time, ONC issued another final rule, finalizing the "standards and certification criteria for the certification of EHR technology, so eligible professionals and hospitals may be assured that the systems they adopt are capable of performing the required functions."  You can find a copy of this final rule by clicking here.

Stay tuned for much more analysis of the final rules published today, as well as the changes to HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules issued by OCR last week.

In the news: Senators request easing of meaningful use requirements; HHS releases over $267M for RECs; and more

  • A group of 37 U.S. Senators sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius expressing concern regarding the current definition of meaningful use.  The senators urged the Secretary to "allow providers to 'temporarily defer a limited set of IT goals' without otherwise changing the ultimate timeline or requirements of the program."  The senators also sought to change the eligibility determination based on Medicare provider numbers, considering many healthcare providers have multiple medical campuses under one such Medicare number.  According to Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), such changes would "improve the guidelines HHS has set in way that will encourage widespread use of basic, functional IT tools and improve patient care.”
  • HHS released over $267 million from the stimulus funds to help 28 non-profit Regional Extension Centers (RECs).  This latest award brought the total of stimulus-funded RECs to 60, and is expected to support 100,000 primary care and hospitals within 2 years.  According to Secretary Sebelius, these 28 awards "represent [HHS's] ongoing commitment to make sure that health providers have the necessary support within their communities to maximize the use of health IT to improve the care they provide to their patients."  
  • Thomson Reuters released its annual study identifying the 100 top U.S. hospitals based on their overall organizational performance. The 10 areas measured are: mortality, medical complications, patient safety, average length of stay, expenses, profitability, patient satisfaction, adherence to clinical standards of care, and post-discharge mortality and readmission rates for acute myocardial infarction, heart failure, and pneumonia. The study has been conducted annually since 1993. Is your hospital one of the 100 Top Performing Hospitals? Find out here.
  • According to the Baltimore Business Journal, a proposed Maryland law could change how primary care providers do business, by creating a patient-centric primary care delivery system whereby insurance companies would financially reward primary care providers for better outcomes.  However, the new law would also ease patient privacy rules by allowing greater sharing of patient information among medical practices and insurance companies. The law will likely pass with little or no opposition.
     

 

In the news: medical ID theft on the rise; CHIME comments on meaningful; and more

  • Javelin Strategy & Research survey found over 275,000 cases of medical identity theft in 2009, with an average price tag greater than $12,000 per incident.  This is twice as many cases as in 2008.  Keeping health information safe is going to be of paramount importance in the next decade, especially considering the steep rise in use of electronic health records. According to Computerworld.com (citing a study by IDC, a research firm), "about a quarter of all Americans -- 77 million people -- already have an EHR, up from 14% from in 2009." By 2015, experts believe the number will reach up to 60%, partially due to the transformation of the health IT industry by the HITECH Act.
  • In its comments to CMS regarding the meaningful use NPRM, College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) insisted that the present "all or nothing" approach to achieving meaningful use is going to prevent significant numbers of eligible providers from receiving any incentive payments under the HITECH Act.  According to American Medical News:

Among CHIME's suggestions: a gradual implementation process that would allow physicians to qualify for incentives by achieving 25% of meaningful use objectives by 2011, 50% by 2013, 75% by 2015, and 100% by 2017.

'Without an approach that rewards progress or provides sufficient time, organizations with limited resources will likely have little chance of qualifying for payments, thus widening the 'digital divide' in the country,' CHIME wrote.

  • U.S. Senate passed a bill which, if approved by the House and signed by the President, would limit the definition of "hospital-based" eligible professionals to just those practicing in an inpatient or emergency room hospital setting.  If passed, this change would make the Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive payments available to a far wider range of eligible professionals.
  • CCHIT may be getting some competition from the Drummond Group, which announced plans to become an ONC-authorized certifying body of EHR technology (ONC-ATCB).

"U.S. Senate backs expanded physician eligibility for MU," HealthImaging.com (March 11, 2010).

"Drummond Group in EHR testing for the 'long term'," Healthcare IT News (March 12, 2010).

"Patient Billed for Liposuction as Medical Theft Rises," Bloomberg.com (March 23, 2010).

"As health data goes digital, security risks grow," Computerworld.com (March 22, 2010).

"EMR meaningful use rules warrant gradual approach," American Medical News (March 17, 2010).

Slides from webinar on negotiating "must-have" provisions in HIT contracts

Last Thursday, March 18, 2010, from 1:00PM to 2:00PM (EDT), Post & Schell hosted the second webinar in a series examining the effects of meaningful use and other HITECH Act regulations on the healthcare industry. 

The webinar focused on identifying and negotiating the essential elements of HIT agreements, particularly in light of the HITECH Act and related HHS regulations regarding "meaningful use" of "certified EHR technology." Post & Schell's Steve Fox and Vadim Schick, along with Jim Oakes, Principal at Health Care Information Consultants, discussed:

  • Warranty, limitation of liability and privacy and security provisions in HIT contracts
  • Structuring payments to correspond with certain achievement milestones
  • Acceptance testing procedures
  • Provisions specific to vendor-financing transactions
  • ASP / SaaS models of software licensing

If you missed the presentation, you can listen to the podcast here. You can also view the slides from our presentation here.

This webinar was the second in a series devoted to structuring vendor-provider agreements in the post-HITECH Act world. If you missed our first webinar, A Lawyer's Take on "Meaningful Use," you can still view the slides from that presentation
here.

 

Steve Fox Interviewed on Negotiating EHR Agreements

As if foreshadowing our upcoming webinar on negotiating EHR license agreements in the post-HITECH world, For the Record interviewed our own Steve Fox on this very subject in its February 15, 2010 cover story:

Steve Fox, senior partner and chair of the IT group at the law firm Post & Schell, says such strategies will be critical to an implementation’s ultimate success. For instance, he says vendors’ guarantees that their platform will meet meaningful use thresholds should be discounted.

“I’d be surprised if [satisfying] the final regulations will be achieved by a vendor doing anything,” he says. “Ultimately, it will be up to individual physicians’ offices or provider organization to achieve meaningful use, and in order to do it, they will need that vendor’s help. I have to laugh when I see those guarantees, ‘If you buy our product, you’ll achieve meaningful use,’ because nobody can make that claim. On the other hand, the failure of the vendor’s product can cause you to fail to achieve meaningful use. That’s why it is so important that you have tight provisions in the contract saying that whatever you want that vendor’s product to achieve, it will meet those particular objectives.

“Many vendors use the phrase ‘We don’t know what we don’t know’ as a way to say they can’t try to comply with future regulations, but our position is if you are in the HIT arena, you have to agree up front to comply with whatever they are,” he adds.

 

You can read the full article here.

"IT Vendor Negotiations in the ARRA Era," For the Record (February 15, 2010).

Free Webinar: Negotiating "Must-Have" Provisions in HIT Contracts

On Thursday, March 18, 2010, from 1:00PM to 2:00PM (EDT), Post & Schell will host the next webinar in a series examining the effects of meaningful use and other HITECH Act regulations on the healthcare industry. 

This webinar will focus on identifying and negotiating the essential elements of HIT agreements, particularly in light of the HITECH Act and related HHS regulations regarding "meaningful use" of "certified EHR technology." Post & Schell's Steve Fox and Vadim Schick, along with Jim Oakes, Principal at Health Care Information Consultants, will discuss:

  • Warranty, limitation of liability and privacy and security provisions in HIT contracts
  • Structuring payments to correspond with certain achievement milestones
  • Acceptance testing procedures
  • Provisions specific to vendor-financing transactions
  • ASP / SaaS models of software licensing

You may view this presentation at your desk. There is no charge or limit to the number of people who may listen to the presentation on the same line. Click here to register. After registering, you will receive log-in information by e-mail.

This webinar is second in a series devoted to structuring vendor-provider agreements in the post-HITECH Act world. If you missed our first webinar, A Lawyer's Take on "Meaningful Use," you can still view the slides from that presentation
here.

 

Breaking: ONC releases NPRM on certification programs

ONC announced release of the much-anticipated Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on certification programs.  Via ONC Press Release:

Certification of Health IT will provide assurance to purchasers and other users that an EHR system, or other relevant technology, offers the necessary technological capability, functionality, and security to help them meet the meaningful use criteria established for a given phase. Providers and patients must also be confident that the electronic health IT products and systems they use are secure, can maintain data confidentially, and can work with other systems to share information. Confidence in health IT systems is an important part of advancing health IT system adoption and allowing for the realization of the benefits of improved patient care.

Eligible professionals and eligible hospitals who seek to qualify for incentive payments under the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs are required by statute to use Certified EHR Technology. Once certified, Complete EHRs and EHR Modules would be able to be used by eligible professionals and eligible hospitals, or be combined, to meet the statutory requirement for Certified EHR Technology.
 

 

To this end, an NPRM proposing the establishment of certification programs for purposes of testing and certifying health information technology was issued in March 2010 with a request for comments. The NPRM proposes:

* A temporary certification program to assure the availability of Certified EHR Technology prior to the date on which health care providers seeking the incentive payments would begin to report demonstrable meaningful use of Certified EHR Technology.

* A permanent certification program to replace the temporary certification program.

You can learn more about this new NPRM here.

You can find the full text of the NPRM here.

 

Thursday: Free Webinar on "Meaningful Use"

On Thursday, February 25, 2010 from 1:00PM to 2:00PM (EST), Steve Fox and yours truly will host a free webinar, the first in a series, which will focus on the critical definition of "meaningful use" of "certified EHR technology," as described in proposed regulations released and published by CMS pursuant to the HITECH Act on January 13, 2009.  We will discuss:

  • Key policy goals and objectives behind meaningful use
  • Measures required to achieve meaningful use
  • Structure of incentive payments under Medicare and Medicaid
  • Eligibility requirements for professionals and hospitals

You may view each of these presentations at your desk. There is no charge or limit to the number of people who may listen to each presentation on the same line. Click here to register. After registering, you will receive log-in information by e-mail.

Our next webinar, to be held on Thursday March 18, 2010, from 1:00 to 2:00 PM, will focus on how to negotiate software and EHR licensing agreements and other transactional issues with respect to dealing with health IT vendors.

For more information, please contact me at vschick@postschell.com or 202-661-6945.

 

Updated: Meaningful Use Definition Released in the Federal Register

CMS released a proposed rule pursuant to the HITECH Act which includes the much-anticipated definition of Meaningful Use of Certified EHR technology.  You can find the full text here.*

HHS has also released an interim final rule with a request for comments to adopt an initial set of standards, implementation specifications, and certification criteria, as required by section 3004(b)(1) of the Public Health Service Act. This interim final rule represents the first step in an incremental approach to adopting standards, implementation specifications, and certification criteria to enhance the interoperability, functionality, utility, and security of health information technology and to support its meaningful use. The certification criteria adopted in this initial set establish the capabilities and related standards that certified electronic health record (EHR) technology will need to include in order to, at a minimum, support the achievement of the proposed meaningful use Stage 1 (beginning in 2011) by eligible professionals and eligible hospitals under the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs.  You can find this interim rule here.*

 

* These are links to PDF versions of the NPRM and IFR published on January 13, 2010 in the Federal Register.