CMS Working on Transitioning EHR Incentive Programs

January 22, 2016
Policy Snapshot

In a recent speech by Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt, he noted that CMS is trying to make the electronic health records (EHR) programs more physician friendly and tweeted that “in 2016, MU (meaningful use) as it had existed—with MACRA—will now be effectively over and replaced with something better.”

In a follow-up blog post to the CMS website Administrator Slavitt provided a more detailed update on CMS’ plans stating, “We have been working side by side with physician and consumer communities and have listened to their needs and concerns. As we move forward under MACRA, we will be sharing details and inviting comment as we roll out our proposed regulations this spring. All of this work will be guided by several critical principles:

  1. Rewarding providers for the outcomes technology helps them achieve with their patients.
  2. Allowing providers the flexibility to customize health IT to their individual practice needs. Technology must be user-centered and support physicians.
  3. Leveling the technology playing field to promote innovation, including for start-ups and new entrants, by unlocking electronic health information through open APIs – technology tools that underpin many consumer applications. This way, new apps, analytic tools and plug-ins can be easily connected to so that data can be securely accessed and directed where and when it is needed in order to support patient care.
  4. Prioritizing interoperability by implementing federally recognized, national interoperability standards and focusing on real-world uses of technology, like ensuring continuity of care during referrals or finding ways for patients to engage in their own care. We will not tolerate business models that prevent or inhibit the data from flowing around the needs of the patient.”

Slavitt noted that while they move through this transition it’s important for physicians to keep in mind that current law requires CMS to continue to measure the meaningful use of ONC Certified Health Information Technology under the existing set of standards. “While MACRA provides an opportunity to adjust payment incentives associated with EHR incentives in concert with the principles outlined, it does not eliminate it, nor will it instantly eliminate all the tensions of the current system. But we will continue to listen and learn and make improvements based on what happens on the front line.”

He also notes that the MACRA legislation only pertains to Medicare physicians and that the EHR programs for Medicaid and Medicare hospitals have different sets of requirements and that the new approach to MU will not happen overnight. “Our goal in communicating our principles now is to give everyone time to plan for what’s next and to continue to give us input. We encourage you to look for the MACRA regulations this year; in the meantime, our existing regulations – including meaningful use Stage 3 – are still in effect.”

AMDA is pleased to see that CMS has listened to AMDA’s concerns about the difficulties with the meaningful use program for post-acute and long-term care physicians and hopes to continue to work with the administration as they begin to transition to a program better fit for the unique needs of AMDA members.