What do independent physicians need to know about the proposed EHR Regulatory Relief Act?

As part of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Incentive Payment Program, independent physicians must demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health record (EHR) technology (CEHRT) and must submit attestations of their use according to CMS deadlines. Recognizing that this regulation may pose an additional burden on independent physicians, a number of Senators have proposed legislation to alleviate those requirements.

Members of the Senate IT Working Group, including Senators John Thune, R-South Dakota, Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, and Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, signed similar legislation in 2016 in the EHR Regulatory Relief Act and have recently reintroduced it. The proposed legislation is “intended to reduce the burden that using EHRs and attesting to the meaningful use incentive program put on doctors.”

The authors emphasize that the proposed Relief Act “removes the ‘all or nothing’ approach to meaningful use.” The proposal would “ease requirements that currently are challenging for healthcare organizations to meet and annually the source of much industry pushback.” According to Health Data Management, included in the proposed Relief Act are provisions for:

  • Shortening the reporting period for eligible physicians and hospitals from 365 days to 90 days.
  • Relaxing the all-or-nothing nature of the current program requirements, under which providers that fail to achieve only one of the MU objectives don’t qualify for incentive payments.
  • Extending the ability of providers to apply for hardship exceptions from meaningful use requirements for the 2017 EHR reporting period and payment adjustments for 2019.

The proposed act also encourages flexibility within the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) in assessing the performance of independent physicians.

Senator Enzi stated, “The use of electronic health records has the potential to revolutionize patient care. But if we want electronic health records to work for providers and patients, we have to provide relief from unrealistic and burdensome requirements and build flexibility within the program.”