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CMS revises rule for radiologists in final stage 2

by Loren Bonner , DOTmed News Online Editor
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released an update to a meaningful use stage 2 rule that applies to radiologists who might be eligible for a hardship exception option under the federal program that incentivizes providers and hospitals to adopt electronic health records.

The revised guidance from CMS, which came out Tuesday, seeks to clarify a part of meaningful use stage 2 that lumps the whole of radiology into a single Provider Enrollment, Chain and Ownership System (PECOS) specialty code for physicians who might be eligible for the significant hardship exception option to avoid the Medicare payment adjustments beginning in CY 2015.

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"The regulatory language overlooked the fact that there was no specialty code for radiology in the PECOS so it needed to be further defined beyond what the regulation had in there, to know what it means if a physician's primary specialty listing in PECOS was radiology," Michael Peters, director of regulatory and legislative affairs at the American College of Radiology, told DOTmed News.

After CMS released final meaningful use stage 2 rules in September 2012, ACR felt they needed to alert CMS to the fact that some radiology specialists — like nuclear medicine physicians — have workflow that is different from many other diagnostic radiologists.

Under the revised guidance, the PECOS code now lists radiology as diagnostic radiology, interventional radiology and nuclear medicine.

In other words, physicians in any of these three radiology subspecialties can opt for the specialty-based significant hardship exception.

However, Peters points out that this is only a temporary reprieve from the penalties. In the law, CMS is not allowed to grant the hardship exception to eligible professionals for more than 5 years.

"So if a radiologist takes advantage of this it will eventually run out and they will be exposed to the penalties," said Peters.

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