On January 13, 2016, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that the Meaningful Use (MU) program would come to an end in 2016. The news surprised many, as CMS had just released the final rules to meet MU Stage 3 requirements in October 2015.
Officials say the technology that MU was striving for is already available nearly everywhere healthcare is provided. With that availability in place, the focus should now shift from measuring technology use to building better care models that improve clinical outcomes and provide quality healthcare for patients.
During a presentation on January 11, 2016, CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt announced, “the Meaningful Use program as it has existed, will now be effectively over and replaced with something better.” The Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS), established in 2006, will also be retired.
Until the program is replaced, however, MU Stage 3 regulations are still in place – including the electronic submission of data to promote health information exchange and improve clinical outcomes. Further, starting in 2019, physicians will be required to participate in the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) that will affect their pay based on quality, clinical improvements, resource use and meaningful use, so the program fundamentals of MU will be in play for a long time to come.
Healthcare providers who took issue with the MU program voiced their concern over recent months as Stage 3 of the program was rolled out, saying that even Stage 2 was not structured properly to support the healthcare industry’s transition to value-based care.
Slavitt stated that with the new program, “…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.”
CMS said they’ll be working in conjunction with physician organizations, technology companies, practice administrators and the American Medical Association (AMA) on the program to replace MU. The program’s goals will be structured around the needs of individual physician practices, patient populations, interoperability and feedback from a public comment period.
Interoperability measures the extent to which health information systems can connect, interpret and share patient information with one another, as well as the extent to which the data can be used and understood once exchanged. Healthcare providers rely on interoperability between these systems to not only treat their patients effectively, but also to get a big picture of the health of their patient population and encourage patient engagement.
When CMS finally reveals its replacement program for MU in Spring 2016, providers will be leaning on their IT tools to make their individual practice needs and goals a reality; whether that goal is continuity of care, patient engagement, managing and preventing adverse outcomes or closing care gaps – interoperability is critical in achieving better clinical outcomes.