As you’re probably already aware, the final meaningful use rules were released by the government about 48 hours ago. Overall, I’m impressed with the transparency, quality, and timeliness of the final regulations. I think the “little guy” won one because the MU rules have mostly been reduced from the original requirements and the two additions are relatively easy. While I don’t think we should be doing any top-down initiative like MU, given that it’s the law, HHS, CMS, and NIST is doing as good a job as they can in writing the rules and attempting to make them understandable. I’m especially impressed with NIST’s draft test plans and directives which should ease the certification process for techies like me.
We’re still months away from any systems being certified for MU because NIST still has to update all of it draft test plans to match the final rules, the certifying bodies have yet to be selected, the certifying bodies haven’t prepared their test processes and plans, and the certification bodies haven’t finalized their certification requirements. My guess is that vendors will not be able to submit their products for final MU certification until September or October and that the first certified-versions of the products won’t be released until late this Fall.
Many readers have been e-mailing me about “what should I do now?” and my answer is simple:
- Don’t be in a hurry to make an EMR/EHR decision because of incentive payments; even if you start in 2012 you’ll be eligible for full payments from Medicare ($44k over 5 years) and you can start as late as 2016 to get full payments from Medicaid ($66k over 5 years). If you’re making EHR/EMR decisions based on other business benefits and not incentive payments then you should continue that research and decision-making process.
- Do be in a hurry to use technology that helps with office automation first (like document management, patient relationship management, etc.). General office automation technology won’t qualify you for incentive payments but it will help reduce your costs and you’ll run your business better. If you use the proper technology you save more in one year than you’ll get back from incentive payments in 5 years.
- Make sure to get your MU and certification information from the most trustworthy place: the government’s website at http://www.cms.gov/EHRIncentivePrograms. It’s not that other sites (like mine) would deliberately mislead you but government regulations are so new that there are no experts on those rules so anyone saying they “know” what the government expects is probably not correct because even government officials don’t know all this stuff. Whatever you’re told, always try to bounce it off the government’s site and for those that give you advice have them source their knowledge from official guidance or regulations and prove to you that they’re correct. The government doesn’t hide regulations, it’s all public and transparent and anyone providing advice should be able to quote it appropriately.