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Meaningful Use Attestations: It's Not Just for Ambulatory Anymore!

by Allison LaValley, Executive Director of Clinical Performance

With the second year of Meaningful Use (MU) Stage 2 behind us, athenahealth is delighted to announce something we expected all along: our clients rocked this shape-shifting, time-consuming, at times blood-boiling government program yet again!  Ambulatory providers on our EHR, athenaClinicals, successfully attested at a whopping 97.6%.  And for the first time, athenahealth supported small hospitals in their quest for MU success!

First, the Results

Our MU results demonstrate just how effective our services are at enabling providers to succeed in this CMS-mandated program.   They’re so effective, in fact, that we guarantee our providers’ success.  Our 97.6% attestation success represents eligible providers, in all program stages—not just Stage 2--given the MU changes in 2015 which significantly consolidated program requirements. As CMS and Congress adjust the bar for MU success, athena adjusts our support to ensure our clients clear it.  In 2015, we extended that promise to a new cohort of clients.

athenahealth now supports small, critical-access and community hospitals across America with our inpatient service, athenahealth for Hospitals & Health Systems.  The stakes are even higher for these hospitals, with large incentives and penalties on the table.  So far, the proof is in the pudding: athena’s Quality Performance team partnered with these clients and an impressive 95.7% of them met MU program requirements. 

What’s Next for MU?

If all of this MU success has you wondering “Yes, but isn’t MU going the way of the Dodo?,” you’re not alone. By now, many providers have heard CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt’s recent announcement that “The Meaningful Use program as it has existed will now be effectively over and replaced with something better.”  That “something” is the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), a new Medicare payment plan under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, a.k.a., MACRA.  MACRA, passed in 2015, will consolidate the Meaningful Use, Physician Quality Reporting System, and Value-Based Modifier programs.  MIPS will begin affecting reimbursements starting in 2019. CMS has hinted that it will release its new proposed rule implementing MIPS this month.

The Game Plan for 2016

We may be in a moment of reimbursement purgatory, waiting for the next shoe to drop, but what we do know is that CMS’ proposed changes—whatever exactly they may be--will not impact existing MU requirements in 2016. To avoid penalties, providers will need to stay the course with MU for the remainder of this year and next, as MIPS reimbursements will be based off of 2017 performance. MIPS will not apply to hospitals or to Medicaid providers, making continued Meaningful Use success critical to these stakeholders.

Nevertheless, with MIPS on the near-term horizon, the days of check-the-box requirements are, we hope, nearly over for most providers.  athenahealth’s voice is one of many in a chorus advocating for CMS to simplify, streamline and refocus its existing programs through MIPS.  athenahealth will deeply study the proposed rule once it arrives to provide clear recommendations for CMS to make sure its final rule does just that. 

Until then, for as long as the program requirements continue to exist, it’s my team’s mission to guarantee that all clients keep meeting them with as little teeth-gnashing as possible. We’ll have your back through the radical reinvention of the MU program, no matter where the government decides to set the bar. Looking forward, we’re getting excited about setting our clients up for success with newer, better, more streamlined programs that legitimately improve patient care.

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