Last month, acting CMS administrator Andy Slavitt kicked up a media speculation storm when he said,“We are now in the process of ending Meaningful Use and moving to a new regime culminating with the MACRA implementation. The Meaningful Use program as it has existed will now be effectively over and replaced with something better.”
It’s true that when the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) begins in earnest, Meaningful Use as a stand-alone program will end. But the EHR requirements on providers, as well as the potential for penalties, will likely remain.
By way of background, the MACRA was passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives last Spring, repealing the Medicare sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula that calculated payment cuts for physicians. The MACRA establishes two options for value-based payment tracks, both set to begin in 2019. These are: the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) or Alternative Payment Models (APMs). The first track consolidates pay-for-performance incentives, rolling up the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS), Meaningful Use program and Physician Value-Based Modifier into a composite score and single payment adjustment for physicians. The second track provides bonus payments for physicians with sufficient participation in APMs. These APMs are likely to involve the operation of patient-centered medical homes or accountable care organizations.
As Mr. Slavitt explained in a follow-up blog on January 19th, “While the MACRA continues to require that physicians be measured on their meaningful use of certified EHR technology for purposes of determining their Medicare payments, it provides a significant opportunity to transition the Medicare EHR Incentive Program for physicians towards the reality of where we want to go next.”
Where is that?
According to Mr. Slavitt, Meaningful Use will ultimately be less about certification and more about the ability to deliver improved patient care outcomes.
But for now, the AMA has labeled the “burdensome” Meaningful Use program as one of the top issues that will affect physicians in 2016. And despite notable pleas to policymakers from multiple healthcare organizations calling for an overhaul to Stage 3, existing and planned Meaningful Use regulations as outlined at the end of 2015 remain in effect.
In summary, Meaningful Use is unchanged for now. But CMS and physicians alike have expressed keen interest in the focus of this program becoming less about certification and more about rewarding providers for the improved outcomes that their technology helps them to achieve with their patients.
As a team of healthcare and technology veterans dedicated to creating software and service solutions for better patient care and engagement, we at Navigating Cancer are hopeful that the Meaningful Use program matures into exactly that. To realize the promise of value-based care, patients and providers need interoperable software that promotes engagement and gives clinic staff the tools to efficiently augment their touch points with patients, in terms of both quantity and quality.
This is why we build the software solutions that satisfy the requirements of Meaningful Use as they exist today, but also provide a comprehensive set of durable features and functions to enable better outcomes, lower costs and greater satisfaction over the long term.
The finalized MACRA regulations are expected to be released this Spring.