The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services today released the proposed Stage 3 rule defining “meaningful use” for the Medicare Electronic Health Records Incentive Program. At the same time, the Office of the National Coordinator released a companion rule that proposes certification criteria, standards and implementation specifications for EHR technology. The Stage 3 rule proposes to make Stage 3 optional in 2017. Beginning in 2018, however, all eligible hospitals, critical access hospitals and eligible professionals would be required to report on the same eight objectives of meaningful use that incorporate 21 specific measures, many with higher thresholds than in Stage 2. All providers, even those new to the program, would have to meet Stage 3 beginning in 2018. The Stage 3 rule also proposes that all eligible hospitals, CAHs and EPs would be required to electronically report clinical quality measures in 2018, and would report under a full calendar year timeline with a limited exception under the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program for providers demonstrating meaningful use for the first time. “Hospitals are implementing electronic health records at a brisk pace in order to improve patient health and health care, but they must do so under the crushing weight of government regulations,” said Linda Fishman, AHA senior vice president of public policy analysis and development. “The release of today’s rule demonstrates that the agency continues to create policies for the future without fixing the problems the program faces today. In January, CMS promised to provide much-needed flexibility for the 2015 reporting year, which is almost half over. Instead, CMS released Stage 3 rules that pile additional requirements onto providers. It is difficult to understand the rush to raise the bar yet again, when only 35% of hospitals and a small fraction of physicians have met the Stage 2 requirements. We urge CMS to release the 2015 flexibility rules immediately. Information technology holds the promise of enhancing care for patients and communities. America’s hospitals are committed to adopting technology but need today’s problems to be addressed to make progress for patients and communities.”