American Society of Hematology

HHS Announces Next Steps to Promote Use of Electronic Health Records and Health Information Exchange

Published on: August 30, 2012

On August 23, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the next steps in the Obama administration's work to help doctors and hospitals use electronic health records. Under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, doctors, health-care professionals, and hospitals can qualify for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments when they adopt and meaningfully use certified electronic health record (EHR) technology.

The program is divided into three stages:

  • Stage 1 sets the basic functionalities electronic health records must include such as capturing data electronically and providing patients with electronic copies of health information.
  • Stage 2 (which will begin as early as 2014) increases health information exchange between providers and promotes patient engagement by giving patients secure online access to their health information.
  • Stage 3 will continue to expand meaningful use objectives to improve health care outcomes.

CMS and the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT released final requirements for Stage 2 that hospitals and health-care providers must meet in order to qualify for incentives during the second stage of the program, and criteria that electronic health records must meet to achieve certification.

  • Make clear that stage two of the program will begin as early as 2014. No providers will be required to follow the Stage 2 requirements outlined today before 2014.
  • Outline the certification criteria for the certification of EHR technology, so eligible professionals and hospitals may be assured that the systems they use will work, help them meaningfully use health information technology, and qualify for incentive payments.
  • Modify the certification program to cut red tape and make the certification process more efficient.
  • Allow current "2011 Edition Certified EHR Technology" to be used until 2014.

The CMS final rule also provides a flexible reporting period for 2014 to give providers sufficient time to adopt or upgrade to the latest EHR technology certified for 2014.

  • Fact sheet on the CMS final rule
  • Detailed fact sheet on ONC's standards and certification criteria final rule
  • Medicare and Medicaid Programs; Electronic Health Record Incentive Program - Stage 2 Final Rule 
  • Health Information Technology: Standards, Implementation Specifications, and Certification Criteria for Electronic Health Record Technology, 2014 Edition; Revisions to the Permanent Certification Program for Health Information Technology Final Rule 

CMS recently updated the EHR Incentive Programs website with a new Stage 2 section, which provides helpful information on the Stage 2 final rule and how it affects the EHR Incentive Programs.

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