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CloudView blog

Ideas and insights to help health care providers stay informed and profitable in today's challenging health care environment.

So You Heard Meaningful Use is Ending...

by Stephanie Zaremba, Director of Government and Regulatory Affairs

As you may have heard by now, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Andy Slavitt recently announced  that “the Meaningful Use program as it has existed, will now be effectively over and replaced with something better.” And if you are a clinician who has been diligently measuring and reporting your every EHR click for the past few years, you likely have some questions: It’s over? What prompted this shift? What will these changes look like? When will they be implemented? Does this mean your days of box-checking are finally over?

First off, you should view this as less of an end to Meaningful Use and more of a transition into a new payment program. This shift is a result of a law passed by Congress last year to repeal the Sustainable Growth Rate and replace it in part with a new program called the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS). MIPS will consolidate the Meaningful Use, Physician Quality Reporting System, and Value-Based Modifier programs into one streamlined system. Physicians will see positive or negative reimbursement adjustments under MIPS starting in 2019, based on their 2017 performance.

So let’s get the bad news out of the way: the changes promised by CMS do not impact the existing Meaningful Use requirements in 2016. Your days of box-checking are hopefully almost over—and athenahealth will continue advocating strongly that they should be—but avoiding payment penalties still requires that you stay the course in Meaningful Use for the remainder of this year. Also, the changes will only apply to physician Medicare reimbursement for now, though CMS has said that it will work to maintain alignment with Medicaid and hospital incentive programs.

Now the good news: while Congress required that CMS consolidate Meaningful Use into MIPS, CMS is taking the instruction to streamline and reduce the burden of its programs very seriously. The agency could simply roll all of its existing Meaningful Use requirements—including the much-criticized Stage 3 rules set to take effect in 2017—into MIPS unchanged. In fact, a request for information released by CMS in the fall of last year hinted that the agency might do just that, missing the larger opportunity to break and reset a bone badly in need. However, between then and now, a chorus of voices has steadily increased, with stakeholders including providers, patients, and health IT developers all calling on CMS to take the opportunity to streamline, simplify, and refocus its programs through MIPS.

Administrator Slavitt’s announcement last month indicated that CMS is listening to those voices. CMS plans to release a proposed rule by the summer outlining the details of MIPS, including what the Meaningful Use requirements will look like. Unfortunately I’ve yet to find a crystal ball to tell us exactly what to expect, but there is reason to think we will see a positive shift in program requirements, away from “check-the-box” and toward outcomes-based measures that clinicians see as actually relevant to patient care.

In a recent blog post, Administrator Slavitt and National Coordinator for Health IT, Karen DeSalvo, indicated that their agencies are working together to produce a new program that focuses on outcomes over process, provides more flexibility in technology use instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, promotes innovation, and prioritizes interoperability.

As with any major policy change, the devil is always in the details. We will be watching closely, advocating for a MIPS program that lets doctors be doctors, and keeping you informed along the way. In the meantime, our clients can rest assured that athenahealth will help them handle the burden of Meaningful Use in 2016 while easing the transition to whatever comes next.

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Ideas, insights and analysis to help physicians, medical groups and health systems stay informed and profitable in today's challenging health environment.

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Comments

Submitted by Barbara Fattah - Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Very interesting articles and extremely informative!!

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