In a December 6 blog post on its HealthITBuzz website, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed a new timeline for the implementation of meaningful use for the Medicare and Medicaid electronic health record (EHR) incentive programs.

Stage 2 will be extended by 1 year, through 2016, and Stage 3 will begin in 2017 for those providers that have completed at least 2 years in Stage 2. According to CMS, the delay is intended to allow CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) to focus efforts on the successful implementation of the enhanced patient engagement, interoperability, and health information exchange requirements in Stage 2. In addition, it will allow the agencies to utilize data from Stage 2 participation to inform policy decisions for Stage 3.

The Medicaid EHR Incentive Program provides incentive payments to eligible professionals and hospitals as they demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR technology in their first year of participation and demonstrate meaningful use for up to 5 remaining participation years. The phased approach to program participation helps providers move from creating information in Stage 1, to exchanging health information in Stage 2, to focusing on improved outcomes in Stage 3.