Tuesday, December 8, 2009

HHS Statement of Regulatory Priorities

Officials of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have planned to issue in December 2009 rules to implement major provisions of the HITECH Act within the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Publication on Dec. 7 of HHS' semi-annual regulatory agenda shows the schedule is on target.

The agenda lists the dates for starting Medicare incentive programs as Oct. 1, 2010, for hospitals and Jan. 1, 2011, for physicians. Obviously we will need a definition of 'meaningful use' of Electronic Health Records (EHR). As stated on page 12 below: If this rule is not published, CMS will be unable to pay incentives for the adoption and meaningful use of EHRs.

The regulatory agenda identifies actions the department intends to take. In the agenda, the following HITECH rules remain scheduled for publication in December 2009:

  • RIN: 0991-AB58, an Interim Final Rule with comment period to establish an initial set of data standards, implementation specifications and criteria for certification of electronic health records;
  • RIN: 0991-AB59, An Interim Final Rule with comment period establishing certification programs for health information technology; and
  • RIN: 0938-AP78, a Proposed Rule to establish policies and procedures for the Electronic Health Record Incentive Program under Medicare and Medicaid, including definitions for the meaningful use of EHRs.

These proposed rules are subject to public comment, so a final rule will not be published by December 29. (sorry eHealth Initiative, no meaningful use for your birthday :-) But this next step in the rule-making process moves the ball significantly down field. So even though Practice Fusion points out this is really only about half time, it seems so far the ONC is meeting the aggressive timelines of HITEC.

So far the predictions for the date the rule will be released:

HITpol and Bob Coffield - December 18, 2009

TheEHRGuy and Ahier - December 17, 2009

What say you?