Massachusetts Medical Society: Massachusetts Medical Society Applauds Board of Registration in Medicine Action on Electronic Health Records

Massachusetts Medical Society Applauds Board of Registration in Medicine Action on Electronic Health Records

Contact: Richard Gulla

Waltham -- Dec. 17 -- The Massachusetts Medical Society today applauded the action by the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine in approving a broad set of regulations that allows physicians to comply with a state law that ties a physician’s license to practice medicine to proficiency with electronic health records.

A provision in Chapter 224, a 350-page, healthcare cost containment bill passed in 2012, requires a physician to demonstrate “meaningful use” proficiency with electronic health records as a condition of licensure.  The mandate becomes effective on January 1.

“The Board’s action,” said Richard Pieters, M.D., president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, “represents a prudent, common sense approach to complying with the law. While it eases physician concerns about licensure, the most important aspect of the Board’s action is that it preserves access to care for patients.” 

Dr. Pieters noted that “meaningful use” proficiency applies only to Medicare and Medicaid, and without proper interpretation, the law as written could have had severe unintended consequences by preventing more than half of the state’s physicians from gaining licensure, since the majority of physicians in the state are not eligible for the federal meaningful use requirement. 

The Board’s regulations establish multiple ways in which physicians can comply with the law’s requirement and demonstrate and improve their skills, among them completing an accredited continuing medical education course on electronic health records; participating in the Massachusetts Health Information Highway, the state’s official health information exchange; or having a relationship that includes patient care activity with a hospital that has a meaningful use program. 

The Board voted initial approval of the regulations on November 5, following a public hearing on September 29 and a public comment period from August 20 – October 3. The regulations received final approval today by the Board, following the necessary administrative reviews by other state agencies.  The Board also voted to grant an automatic one-time waiver of the requirements to all license applicants whose materials are submitted prior to March 31, 2015. These physicians would be subject to the requirement at their next renewal.

The 90-day waiver period is necessary to allow the Board to modify its licensing materials and to allow physicians time to meet the new requirements.

“The Massachusetts Medical Society,” Dr. Pieters said, “believes that electronic health records have enormous potential for patient care, and the Society’s extensive policy on EMRs declares support for them and a desire to work toward improving them. We are grateful that the Board of Registration has taken a reasonable approach on this issue, exhibiting utmost concerns for patient safety and access to care.” 

The Massachusetts Medical Society, with more than 24,000 physicians and student members, is dedicated to educating and advocating for the patients and physicians of Massachusetts. The Society, under the auspices of NEJM Group, publishes the New England Journal of Medicine, a leading global medical journal and web site, and NEJM Journal Watch alerts and publications covering 13 specialties. The Society is also a leader in continuing medical education for health care professionals throughout Massachusetts, conducting a variety of medical education programs for physicians and health care professionals. Founded in 1781, MMS is the oldest continuously operating medical society in the country.

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