Will 2016 see the end of the meaningful use program? That is the implication made by Andy Slavitt, acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), on January 11th at a J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.
Slavitt suggested that meaningful use could be replaced with a more streamlined regulatory approach in line with the merit-based alternative payment models of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015.
So, what exactly does it mean for organizations if meaningful use goes away? No one is quite sure yet, because CMS has not shared many specifics. Slavitt did say that CMS “will be putting out the details on this next stage over the next few months.”
One report quoted him as saying, “We have to get the hearts and minds of physicians back. I think we’ve lost them.”
Industry Commentary on the Discontinuation of Meaningful Use
Here is a roundup of a few thoughts from others in the industry on the subject.
Even before the announcement by Slavitt, one physician spoke out on his personal blog against meaningful use on November 11th, suggesting that with so many new regulations coming from CMS, now would be good time to reconsider the six-year-old program. John Halamka, MD, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, wrote the following:
“I believe that the Meaningful Use programs have served their purpose. Stage 1 created a foundation of functionality for everyone. That was good. Stage 2 tried to change too much too fast and required an ecosystem of applications and infrastructure that did not exist. Clinicians struggled to engage patients and exchange data because they could send payloads, but there were few who could receive them. Stage 3 makes many of the same mistakes as Stage 2, trying to do too much too soon.”
Jim Noga, CIO at Partners HealthCare in Boston, welcomed the news from the CMS.
“Meaningful use has met its primary and important objectives and shifting from prescriptive regulations mandating EHR functionality to measuring its value and impact on patient outcomes is the right move. This will also allow the health care IT community to focus its energies on innovation, interoperability and initiatives such as patient-reported outcomes, population health management and enhancing the patient experience and all that entails.”
Two health IT membership organizations, HIMSS and CHIME, released formal statements of support for meaningful use. Vice President of HIMSS North America Carla Smith said in a statement:
“HIMSS supports the use of information technology to enable our nation’s transition to a value-based care system. As CMS begins to bring MACRA, MIPS (the Merit-based Incentive Payment System) and alternative payment model requirements online, we commit to continuing to work with CMS and the provider community to ensure the health IT foundation established, in part, by meaningful use is leveraged to improve the health status of all.”
On January 12th, CHIME CEO Russell P. Branzell issued a statement on the future of the meaningful use program.
It “has had a profound impact on the adoption of health information technology and furthering the digitization of the health care delivery system. Members have long supported the underlying goals of the program and the industry has made significant progress in implementing IT systems to improve patient care, reduce costs and create a more efficient delivery system.”
As the health care industry waits for further updates from the CMS on meaningful use guidelines, organizations should keep the intention of meaningful use top of mind. In other words, just as there are significant advantages for building comprehensive cyber defenses beyond HIPAA compliance, there are also important advantages in making electronic health records accessible to patients. So, the motivation to deliver this capability should not be just meaningful use.
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