The End of Meaningful Use: Where Do We Go from Here?

Meaningful Use is dead!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, by now you know what CMS has made official: Meaningful Use is gone.

Or at least it will be at some point in the near future. For now, all we have to go on is CMS acting administrator Andy Slavitt’s speech at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference 2016, where he explained in 15 minutes that the EHR federal incentive program as we know it will end in 2016.

Here’s what Slavitt had to say about the fate of Meaningful Use: “The Meaningful Use program as it has existed, will now be effectively over and replaced with something better. Since late last year we have been working side by side with physician organizations across many communities — including with great advocacy from the AMA — and have listened to the needs and concerns of many.”

What’s next?

For many, Andy Slavitt’s speech left them with the question of what now? It can be assumed that federal incentive programs for HIT will never go away fully, but as Slavitt mentioned, this program needs to be reshaped towards benefiting both the physician and patient, rather than hamstringing clinicians with requirements that ultimately negatively affect patient care.

Based on Slavitt’s speech and a blog post that he penned with Karen DeSalvo, Acting Assistant Secretary for Health at the HHS, the new Meaningful Use program will be shaped according to four key points:

  1. The focus will move away from rewarding providers for the use of technology and towards the outcome they achieve with their patients.
  2. Providers will be able to customize their goals so tech companies can build around the individual practice needs, not the needs of the government. Technology must be user-centered and support physicians, not distract them.
  3. Open APIs will be required so the physician desktop can be opened up and move away from the lock that early EHR decisions placed on physician organizations. This will allow apps, analytic tools, and connected technologies to get data in and out of an EHR securely.
  4. Interoperability will be a huge focus. Slavitt announced they will begin initiatives in collaboration with physicians and consumers toward pointing technology to fill critical use cases like closing referral loops and engaging a patient in their care. Further, technology companies that look for ways to practice “data blocking” in opposition to new regulations won’t be tolerated.

The Future

To make this goal a reality, Slavitt and DeSalvo identified the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) as the platform on which the new Meaningful Use program will be built.

With MACRA, CMS will begin adopting its payment incentives to reward physicians for outcomes achieved, rather than simply proving the use of HIT. However, the MACRA legislation only addresses Medicare physician and clinician payment adjustments, while the EHR incentive programs for Medicaid and Medicare hospitals have a different set of requirements. So, these facilities will have to hold off for the time being, with a possible solution being announced further down the line.

Despite the large implications of this announcement, both officials cautioned that this process will take time and in all reality, will not be accomplished until the end of 2016. Until then, MU will exist in its current form, including the recently finalized MU Stage 3 requirements.

Slavitt summed this up best, saying:

The challenge with any change is moving from principles to reality. The process will be ongoing, not an instant fix and we must all commit to learning and improving and collaborating on the best solutions.

Despite the uncertainty moving forward, it truly does seem that CMS is letting physicians know that their concerns are being addressed. While we might not have a full idea of what MU will look like in the future, we here at Hello Health will be monitoring the situation and working to guide our partner practices every step of the way.

About the Author
Patrick Stevenson

Patrick Stevenson is Vice President, Channel Sales for Hello Health, the only revenue generating EHR platform for primary care and pediatrics practices.