CMS Offers Meaningful Use Tipsheet for Specialists

Radiologists, nephrologists, psychiatrists, oncologists, urologists, and other specialists have been known to question just how relevant the federal government’s electronic health record (EHR) incentive program requirements are to their practices.

A recently released Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Tipsheet can help specialist physicians see where they fit in and also offers practical tips on how to better meet Meaningful Use requirements and qualify for incentive funds. The three-page document states that CMS recognizes that not every Meaningful Use measure will apply to every provider, and gives suggestions on how specialist physicians can successfully fulfill the requirements that do apply to them.

For example, the agency encourages specialists who don’t normally collect the patient information required in some of the measures to instead use data they can access from referring physicians or via a health information exchange. In such a case, however, the specialist must use their own certified EHR to record and store the data, even if the HIE or referring physician it came from used one of their own, according to the tipsheet.

CMS also states that if specialty physicians determine that none of the clinical quality measures in the Meaningful Use requirements apply to their practice, it will accept an EHR-generated zero value for the numerator, denominator and exclusion fields for the measures. Such a strategy will not prevent specialists from demonstrating meaningful use or receiving incentive payments, according to the tipsheet.

Further, CMS states that specialists can claim and qualify for exclusions to some or all of the Meaningful Use menu measures if they determine that they don’t apply to their scope of practice. Specialists must individually evaluate whether they meet each exclusion criteria and, if applicable, select the menu items on which they can report.

The tipsheet also states that CMS recognizes that despite such exclusions and flexibilities on reporting, some specialists may find it difficult to demonstrate meaningful use. As a result, it is enabling these specialists to apply for a hardship exception to avoid payment adjustments. Specialists who can demonstrate that they lack interaction with their patients, the need to follow-up with them and the ability to use EHR systems for more than 50% of patient encounters that would help generate the required data may be eligible for such an exception.

CMS also has made available various other resources to help specialists successfully participate in the Meaningful Use program, including Stage 1 specification sheets, a Meaningful Use Calculator, an Introduction to the Medicare (and Medicaid) EHR Incentive Program for Eligible Professionals and Stage 2 Specification Sheets.