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Stark Exception Extended, Leaving Options Open for Subsidizing Interoperability

The Stark Exception has aided in interoperability [1]Interoperability refers to the ability of two or more systems or components to exchange information ... More [1] of the physician community by allowing health care entities to subsidize physician purchases of electronic health records (EHR [2]Electronic Health Record (EHR), as defined in Defining Key Health Information Technology Terms (The ... More [2]) items and services, while requiring that subsidized software be interoperable.

The Stark Exception was set to expire at the end of 2013, but on December 23 the government posted new final rules that extend the sunset date to December 31, 2021. This amendment allows health care entities to continue subsidizing physician purchases of EHRs.

Highlights of the rule extension include:

Interoperability [1]Interoperability refers to the ability of two or more systems or components to exchange information ... More [1] is now defined based on compliant EHR [2]Electronic Health Record (EHR), as defined in Defining Key Health Information Technology Terms (The ... More [2] certification for Meaningful Use. On the date the EHR [2]Electronic Health Record (EHR), as defined in Defining Key Health Information Technology Terms (The ... More [2] is provided to the physician, it must be a certified EHR [2]Electronic Health Record (EHR), as defined in Defining Key Health Information Technology Terms (The ... More [2] technology listed on the Certified Health IT Product List managed by the ONC [3]Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) – Located within the Of... More [3]

At a minimum, this currently means that all subsidized EHRs moving forward will have the capability to support Direct Project [4] protocol. And based on the clarifications above, the donating entity cannot require the restriction or limitation of the use of Direct to send secure e-mails in any way.