Freed Associates

Meaningful Use Requirements: Start Preparing Your Organization for Stage 3

TOPIC: Health Information Exchanges, Health Reform 2.0

Meaningful Use (MU) requirements and the current EHR Incentives Program will change significantly from 2015 to 2018, as part of a larger shift to patient-centered healthcare reform. When the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the extension of current MU Stage 1 and Stage 2 requirements (“Modified MU Rule”) through 2017, many organizations breathed a sigh of relief. However, MU Stage 3 is just around the corner, and everyone will soon be rushing to meet those new standards. In other words, organizations and providers shouldn’t postpone Stage 3 preparations. The time to act is now.

Expectations for MU Stage 3 include improved protection of patient information, full adoption of ePrescribing capabilities, and open patient access portals to increase patient engagement. With these changes also comes the need for better data registries and reporting, as well as applications to move towards a Health Information Exchange (HIE) model of healthcare technology.

Although Stage 3 requirements won’t go into effect until 2018, it’s crucial that large healthcare organizations, as well as small practices, begin preparations now, during the Modified MU period.

Health care group discussing Meaningful Use Requirements Preparing Stage 3.


Stage 3 implementation will entail some extensive upgrades in software to meet the minimum requirements come 2018. Understanding where to focus energies is essential for staying on top of these software changes, so connecting with ongoing CMS resources and webinars regarding IT transitions and modifications is recommended.

Practices should also stay connected with EHR vendors to keep up with the latest technologies. The health IT market is growing considerably, and many healthcare providers and organizations are already preparing to meet Stage 3 Meaningful Use requirements.


Much of the new EHR technologies are focused on interoperability—a prime goal of MU Stage 3 development. CMS proposed to significantly increase the requirement for Transition of Care, (TOC) which, for some, is already a difficult measure to meet in Stage 2. TOC calls for exchanging CCDs (continuity of care documents) electronically with other providers who use EHR systems other than their own. Depending on the EHR vendor, you can:

  1. connect directly from EHR to EHR using the same software platforms

  2. connect via a 3rd party Health Information Service Provider (HISP)

  3. join an organization that is a member of the Direct Trust, such HealtheWay the National Exchange

Many larger organizations are already looking to connect with these vendors to organize technology needs and prepare for upcoming Stage 3 MU requirements. The changes required will increase the ability for EHRs to communicate with one another, allowing for an increase in large system communications that could spread throughout the care continuum.


Data is the key when making informed decisions about IT upgrades and changes. Once the Final Rule for Stage 3 is published and the requirements are understood, evaluating performance according to the Stage 3 objectives and goals will allow for advanced decisions regarding these changes. This data can then be used in direct conversations with EHR vendors to find the best value in technology.

Early planning in 2016 will help ensure that minimum requirements are met before these changes take effect will help organizations avoid the projected EHR vendor overload in 2017. Eligible professionals need to focus on these key points of the Modified Meaningful Use in preparation for Stage 3:

  • Protecting patient health information through security risk analysis and implementation of security updates

  • CDS (clinical decision support) interventions

  • Utilizing CPOE (computerized physician order entry) and ePrescribing to meet minimum percentage requirements

  • Utilize Certified EHR Technology (CERHT) for summary of care data records and information exchanges

  • Increase patient engagement, education opportunities, communication, and electronic access.

  • Meet performance medication reconciliation and transition of care requirements.

  • Meet public health and clinical data registry reporting guidelines

Focusing on these requirements, as well as organizing data, utilizing CMS resources, and working with the proper vendors will help inform IT decisions and increase the value of these changes. Provider networks and organizations must prioritize these MU requirements now, as opposed to in 2017, if they’re to successfully manage Stage 3 implementation.