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What to Know About Stage 3 Meaningful Use

By: Kathy Claytor | March 5th, 2015

What to Know About Stage 3 Meaningful Use Blog Feature
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The meaningful use program was designed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services with the aim of improving the efficiency, security and quality of EHRs. It has gone through some ups and downs as well as some delays since it began in 2011. Meaningful use stage 2 has been extended through 2016, and stage 3 has been delayed until 2017. At that point, providers who have completed at least two years of stage 2 can begin the next level of attestation. Many providers, however, know little about the third and final part of the CMS incentive program.

What is the goal of stage 3 meaningful use?
Stage 1 focused on enhancing data capture and sharing, and stage 2 concentrated on advancing clinical processes. Stage 3 will be about improving patient outcomes as well as expanding interoperability among enterprises, hospitals, departments and clinicians. It includes higher-level, broader criteria than its predecessors. Along with improving health outcomes by enhancing the efficiency, safety and quality of EHRs and patient documentation, it will focus on these areas of health IT:

  • Self-management tools, like mobile health applications, and patient access to such technology
  • Decision support for conditions of high priority on a national level
  • Development of patient-focused health information exchange that provides access to comprehensive clinical data
  • Improvement of population health through big data utilization

"Stage 3 focuses on improving health outcomes and enhancing interoperability."

How do providers attest?
To attest to stage 3, providers must fulfill the requirements outlined by the CMS; however, the specific criteria have not yet been determined for this level of meaningful use. The healthcare industry is eagerly anticipating the reveal of the stage 3 criteria, as the Department of Health and Human Services has submitted a rule for approval and is awaiting finalization. It's expected that the proposal will be published in full in February 2015, though no date has been guaranteed.

Many experts have been making predictions about what requirements and recommendations will be included in stage 3 meaningful use. During an annual meeting for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, agency head Dr. Karen DeSalvo stated that the next phase would be more straightforward and streamlined to focus on improved interoperability and health outcomes. This caused a flurry of responses through social media, such as from PwC Health Research Institute manager Matt DoBias.

The rule is also expected to include a variety of changes to make the program easier for providers to manage and complete.

"Stage 3 will also propose changes to the reporting period, timelines, and structure of the program, including providing a single definition of meaningful use," the rule summary stated. "These changes will provide a flexible, yet, clearer framework to ensure future sustainability of the EHR program and reduce confusion stemming from multiple stage requirements."

What dates do I need to know?
The CMS expects that eligible healthcare professionals will be able to start stage 3 meaningful use at the beginning of January 2017. Eligible hospitals should be able to begin in October 2016, when the fiscal year kicks off. However, these dates may change as the CMS addresses issues with the program along the way. 2016 will be the final year that a hospital or professional can initiate participation, and the very last year one can receive a payment for meaningful use attestation is 2021.