The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has released the final rules that will allow users to read and exchange electronic health information, making it available when and where it is needed, according to a press release.

These guidelines, called Stage 3, are set to begin as an optional requirement for users in 2017 and required in 2018. Less than 1 in 5 providers have the requirements for Stage 2, asking for more time to catch up with the program.

After much anticipation, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) released the final rules for the third stage of the Meaningful Use incentive program and the corresponding certification requirements for EHR vendors. Credit:

This initiative is coming to move the healthcare industry away from a paper-based system, that can be often confusing due to the doctor’s handwriting, and where the patients files could be easily misplaced or lost.

“We have a shared goal of electronic health records helping physicians, clinicians, and hospitals to deliver better care, smarter spending, and healthier people. We eliminated unnecessary requirements, simplified and increased flexibility for those that remain, and focused on interoperability, information exchange, and patient engagement,” said Dr. Patrick Conway from CMS.

HHS heard comments about the difficulties doctors face using the technology for their individual practices and for their patients. These rules expect to improve the reporting methods, measures of the patient’s progress and the developing of user-friendly ways to access the information.

CMS reviewed more than 2,500 comments on the proposed rules in order to create the final guidelines. These revisions go towards the changing of the paradigm so Health Information Technology (HIT) becomes a tool for care improvement, not an end in itself, making it simple and flexible for users by choosing the report that fits better, and giving more time for developers to adapt to the system.

Despite the fact that more than 100 members of Congress and healthcare stakeholders asked that Stage 3 rules to be postponed, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that they will be published this October 16.

Furthermore, CMS announced a 60-day public comment period to additional feedback about the EHR (Electronic Health Records) Incentive Programs to keep consolidating aspects of the guidelines to make it more efficient. The feedback is going to be used to inform future developments.

“This rule is a key step forward in our work with the private sector to realize the shared goal of making actionable electronic health information available when and where it matters most to transform care and improve health for the individual, community and larger population. It will bring us closer to a world in which health care providers and consumers can readily, safely and securely exchange electronic health information,” concluded Karen B. DeSalvo, national coordinator for HIT.

Source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS)