Managing Your EHR Meaningful Use Expectations

Mon, Feb 22, 2016 --


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So what’s next for Meaningful Use, that part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) that established the Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program? For the immediate future, providers can expect the Meaningful Use program to proceed as planned with incentives and penalties. The incentives were the “carrot” portion of Meaningful Use, the part giving providers incentive to invest in electronic health record technology. This year, CMS continues using its “stick” of penalties on eligible providers who were unable to demonstrate meaningful use under either the Medicare or Medicaid EHR Incentive Program.

The End Is Nigh for Meaningful Use

However, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) clearly plans to end the Meaningful Use program in the near future. CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt announced at a major healthcare investment conference in January that CMS will end the Meaningful Use program soon. “The Meaningful Use program as it has existed will now be effectively over and replaced with something better,” Slavitt said, with CMS “moving to a new regime culminating with the MACRA implementation.”

Are You Eligible to Avoid CMS’s Stick?

On January 22, CMS’s new streamlined hardship application process went online, intended to reduce the amount of required information that participants submit to apply for an exception to the 2017 payment adjustment (in other words, the cut in reimbursement pay). And the deadline rapidly approaches for eligible professionals to appeal the 2016 payment adjustment, which was based on the 2014 EHR reporting period. CMS says that if you received a letter from Medicare indicating you’re subject to the 2016 payment adjustment, submit your Payment Adjustment Reconsideration Application by February 29.

Looking Forward With Andy Slavitt

Speaking of Meaningful Use’s demise, what’s coming in the future? CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt gave a few more hints at the 27th Annual Policy Institute of the National Rural Health Association in Washington, D.C., on February 2. Slavitt said that he continued to hear provider frustration about how much administrative burden exists for practices trying to be compliant. “We must reduce burden further,” he said. “We have listened to physicians around the country who have told us that the Meaningful Use program often takes time away from patients due to data entry and reporting burden that doesn’t always improve care,” he added. But technology holds great promise to connect providers with patients and payers, to improve productivity, and to offer innovation that we can’t even imagine today, he said.

Slavitt Hints at the Future of CMS Technology Programs

In stepping back from Meaningful Use, Slavitt said providers can expect to see several themes around future CMS technology initiatives:

  • Move away from rewarding providers for use of technology and towards rewarding them for the outcome they achieve with patients.
  • Allow providers to customize their own goals and let tech companies build around practice needs, not government requirements. “Technology must be user-centric and support physicians, not distract them,” Slavitt said.
  • Require open application program interfaces (APIs) for healthcare software development that allow startups and new companies to be able to build EHR products that adapt to the way that physicians want to work, rather than the other way around.
  • Enforce interoperability requirements with zero tolerance for data blocking by EHR vendors.

How Do You Like Your EHR?

Lately I’ve been spending 8 hours a day with my nose in an EHR, and quite frankly, I love using it for data extraction. How about you? Let us know in the comment box below.

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Susan taught health information and healthcare documentation at the community college level for more than 20 years. She has a special love for medical language and terminology. She is passionate about ensuring accurate patient healthcare documentation through education. She has a master's degree in healthcare administration, is a certified healthcare documentation specialist, and serves as immediate past president for the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI).

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