The American College of Radiology (ACR) has submitted comments to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) regarding the agencies’ March 7 proposed rules to revise professional and technology requirements of the EHR meaningful use incentive program.
Compiled by the ACR IT and Informatics Committee (ITIC) – Government Relations Subcommittee, the comments from ACR members focused on the Medicare version of the program for eligible professionals (EPs).
“We estimate that over 90 percent of ACR’s professionally active physician members are not ‘hospital-based EPs’ and are therefore eligible to participate in the Medicare version of the program,” wrote ACR. “Despite widespread eligibility in the radiology subspecialties, public data from CMS and the [ONC] updated in early February 2012 indicates that less than 400 total ACR members successfully attested in 2011. While these compliance statistics are comparable to other unique medical specialties, the data are indicative of the immediate need for CMS and ONC to substantially increase the flexibility and relevance of the program’s requirements for specialist EPs and their patients.”
CMS’ proposed rule suggests modifications to Stage 1 meaningful use requirements, potential Stage 2 requirements, new clinical quality measures, timelines for avoiding the future penalties for noncompliance and more. In the letter to CMS, the ACR suggested changes designed to ease the regulatory burden of Stage 1 requirements for specialist EPs. ACR also supports the inclusion of a new category of hardship exceptions for hospital-based EPs who have no influence on health IT acquisitions.
The ONC’s proposed rule suggests a long-awaited change to the definition of “certified EHR technology” that would eliminate many unused but currently required health IT functionalities. In the letter to the ONC, the ACR recommended that the new definition of certified EHR technology be optional through calendar year 2013 so EPs can take advantage of increased flexibility prior to the 2014 edition certification criteria.
“ACR’s comments provide realistic recommendations for how the agencies can improve the regulations from the perspective of diagnostic radiologists, interventional radiologists, radiation oncologists and nuclear medicine physicians,” Khan M. Siddiqui, MD, chair of the ACR ITIC, said in a statement. “We believe that if CMS and ONC incorporate these suggestions in the final rules, the program will be much more flexible and ultimately better for our patients.”
Final rules from CMS and ONC are expected to be published in late summer-early fall 2012.
For additional coverage, read “Meaningful Use and Radiology: Can a Square Peg Fit in a Round Hole?” from the April issue of Health Imaging .