INDUSTRY-FIRST INTERVIEW: CHIME’s Branzell Shares His Thoughts on CMS’ Announcement on MU Flexibility

May 21, 2014
Moments after CHIME had released an analysis of an important announcement from CMS for its members, CHIME president and CEO Russ Branzell spoke first to HCI’s Mark Hagland to share his perspectives on the announcement and its broader context

Moments after releasing an analysis of an important announcement from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) May 20 regarding new flexibility in meeting meaningful use reporting requirements  under the HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) Act, Russell P. Branzell, president and CEO of the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), spoke first to HCI Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland regarding CHIME’s analysis of the CMS announcement.

On Tuesday evening, CHIME leaders released a “Member Alert” regarding the CMS announcement of that afternoon. As the member alert’s text noted, “CHIME welcomes today’s announcement from CMS and ONC [the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology] that would give healthcare organizations and professionals a better chance to continue participation in the MU program in 2014. If federal officials implement these changes quickly,” the member alert said, “CHIME’s calls for much-needed flexibility appear to have been addressed.”

The statement went on to say that, “While the proposed changes to meaningful use in 2014 are complex, we believe the adjustments will ensure broad program participation and will enable providers to continue their meaningful use journey.” In addition, the statement noted the following: “According to the proposed rule, eligible professionals, eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals will be allowed to use 2011 edition certified EHR [electronic health record] technology (CEHRT), 2014 Edition CEHRT, or a combination of the two editions to meet meaningful use requirements in 2014. Because providers are at various stages and are scheduled to meet different stage requirements in 2014, CMS and ONC also have proposed giving providers the option of meeting  Stage 1 requirements or Stage 2 requirements. For example, if you are scheduled to attest to Stage 2 in 2014, the proposed changes offer the option of attesting to revised Stage 1, or “2014 Stage 1,” objectives and measures, instead of Stage 2 objectives and measures.”

Russell P. Branzell

Branzell told HCI’s Hagland that “The real key here is, if the government gets this NPRM [notice of proposed rule-making] passed through—it takes a while—if they get this through in a reasonable timeframe, then we think it meets a significant percentage of our members’ needs for flexibility. Again, that’s if they can get it through the governmental process.” Asked his guess as to whether the NPRM could be passed through quickly enough, he said, “I think it will. If everything goes as expected, then we really appreciate that they’ve listened to our call for flexibility for the industry.”

Even so, Branzell noted, the CHIME Member Alert noted that “We are concerned that the timing of these changes may not affording hospitals a chance to take advantage of the proposed flexibility. Given the late date of this announcement,” the association’s statement added, “it is imperative that CMS and ONC take tangible steps as quickly as possible to finalize this rule to ensure the maximum positive impact for EHs [eligible hospitals] and CAHs [critical access hospitals] , which are nearing their final reporting period, beginning July 1.

Asked by Hagland whether he thought that CHIME’s efforts, including a collaborative effort among 48 healthcare associations earlier in the year, which led to a public letter addressed to then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, asking for meaningful use flexibility, had influenced the May 20 announcement, Branzell said, “I think a combination of understanding how the industry’s going, and CHIME’s efforts with the collaborative, contributed to this decision. So that’s why we say we appreciate them listening.”

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