CMS offers guidance on meaningful use hardship exception for rads

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has released new guidance for physicians related to the Meaningful Use program, including information about the significant hardship exception option for certain radiologists.

Hardship exceptions were designed to allow radiologists to temporarily avoid future penalties for not participating in the EHR incentive program. The Meaningful Use Stage 2 final rule, published in September 2012, established hardship exception options for any physician whose primary specialty was listed in the Provider Enrollment, Chain and Ownership System (PECOS) as radiology, anesthesiology or pathology. However, there isn’t a single PECOS specialty code that covers all of radiology, leading to initial confusion, according to the American College of Radiology (ACR).

The guidance from CMS addressed the issue by defining “radiology” as the PECOS medical specialty codes for diagnostic radiology, interventional radiology and nuclear medicine, according to the ACR. Radiation oncology was not included, though certain radiation oncologists will still be able to apply for other significant hardship exception options by July 2014 to avoid CY 2015 penalties.

A press release from the ACR pointed to CMS recommendations that all eligible radiologists work toward achieving meaningful use as significant hardship exceptions will not be granted to any eligible professional for more than five years, after which the penalties will kick in.