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Meaningful Use Stage 3 Is Coming: Here's What It Means for Your Medical Practice

Adam Uzialko
Adam Uzialko
Freelance Editor

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services' (CMS) Meaningful Use program has been almost synonymous with the adoption of electronic health records (EHR) systems in medical practices and hospitals across the country. At first, the program included attractive incentive payments for early adopters. Today, meaningful use attestation is used primarily to avoid penalties to Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.

As 2019 approaches, so too does Meaningful Use Stage 3 (MU3), commonly known as Promoting Interoperability (PI). The goal of this aptly named stage of the program is to expand the interoperability of EHRs with one another so that providers at various points of care in the healthcare ecosystem are better able to communicate with one another about their patients.

Editor's Note: Looking for an electronic health record system that is MU3 ready? If you're looking for information to help you choose the one that's right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our sister site, BuyerZone, provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free.

MU3 and Promoting Interoperability

Promoting Interoperability begins on January 1, 2019. At that point, healthcare providers will have a 90-day window to complete the attestation process, proving that their use of EHRs meets the standards laid out in the program. Otherwise, practices will be subject to reimbursement penalties.

"Eligible professionals (Eps) will receive a 4 percent physician fee schedule reduction regardless of if this is their first or fourth year not demonstrating meaningful use," said Marylou Buyse, vice president of Integrated Health Solutions and Quality and Population Health Solutions at Precision For Value. "This applies to all EPs who are subject to MU3."

Bill Gillis, CIO of Boston-based Beth Israel Deaconess Care Organization, said many providers are already engaged in preparations for attestation.

"A lot more folks are ready for this now because program has been in effect for seven or eight years now," Gillis said. "Everyone is tuned in to what it is and what is required."

Promoting Interoperability expands on previous interoperability requirements contained in Meaningful Use Stage 2, which Gillis said were minimal compared to the new components. The requirements under MU3 include expanded e-prescribing usage that includes controlled substances, closed-loop health information exchange with other healthcare providers, and patient access to their health records and information exchanged between providers.

Ensuring these components are technically possible should be a big part of a medical practice's EHR selection process. Interoperability varies from vendor to vendor; some software is more flexible than others, and some companies are more willing to extend APIs to third-parties more than others. Choosing the right vendor partner to boost interoperability is key, otherwise there is little your practice can do in its day-to-day operations to successfully attest to MU3. 

How MU3 could change the EHR marketplace

The previous meaningful use standards were largely about proliferating modern healthcare IT technology, Gillis said. MU3, however, is about enhancing the effectiveness of that technology to deliver a direct benefit to patients and healthcare outcomes. Gillis, who said he was among the many who "grumbled" about meaningful use in its early days, is optimistic about the results that Promoting Interoperability will produce.

"This is going to be a really good benefit for the patient," Gillis said. "It requires these [EHR] products to be freely interoperable. If a patient shows up at a specialist's office and that specialist wants to exchange notes with the [primary care provider], that should be an easy process. That's a key piece, and I think we'll see a big benefit for the patients directly."

The biggest change MU3 presents to the EHR marketplace is that it requires EHRs to be 2015 certified by CMS-ONC. Any EHR system that is not certified for 2015 is immediately ineligible for attestation, leaving the practices that use those software on the hook for reimbursement penalties. This change will be most visible in the EHR products and updates released by vendors.

"Interoperability is the clear and stated goal of CMS going forward," Buyse said. "All vendors will need to make their products more transparent and allow for true interoperability between different health care entities and different EHRs."

Editor's Note: Looking for an electronic health record system that is MU3 ready? If you're looking for information to help you choose the one that's right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our sister site, BuyerZone, provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free.

Image Credit: Spotmatik Ltd/Shutterstock
Adam Uzialko
Adam Uzialko
Business News Daily Staff
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Freelance editor at business.com. Responsible for managing freelance budget, editing freelance and contributor content, and drafting original articles. Also creates product and service reviews to assist business.com readers in buying decisions for their businesses. VP and co-founder of CannaContent, a digital marketing company dedicated to the cannabis, hemp, and CBD industries. Focused specifically on the content marketing arm of the company, creating blogs, press releases, and website copy for clients spanning the entire supply chain. Avid fan and indispensable ally of the feline species. Music lover, middling guitarist, and unprompted vocalist. Miniature painter who loves sci-fi and fantasy. Armchair political philosopher with a tendency to read old books written by men with unusually large beards. Ask me about all things writing!