FROM THE J.P. MORGAN HEALTHCARE CONFERENCE
Meaningful use is on its way out.
Andy Slavitt, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, told investors attending the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference that CMS is pulling back from the health care IT incentive program in the coming months.
“The meaningful use program as it has existed will now be effectively over and replaced with something better,” Mr. Slavitt said. Without providing full details, he said that March 25 would be an important date as concerns the rollout of the new health IT initiatives.
“We have to get the hearts and minds of physicians back. I think we’ve lost them,” Mr. Slavitt said. He noted that, when the meaningful use incentive program began, few physicians and practices used electronic health records and concerns were that many would not willingly embrace information technology. Now that “virtually everywhere care is delivered has a computer,” it’s time to make health care technology serve beneficiaries and the physicians who serve them, Mr. Slavitt said.
The cost, however, was too high, Mr. Slavitt said. “As any physician will tell you, physician burden and frustration levels are real. Programs that are designed to improve often distract. Done poorly, measures are divorced from how physicians practice and add to the cynicism that the people who build these programs just don’t get it.”
Soon, CMS will no longer reward health care providers for using technology, but will instead focus on patient outcomes through the merit-based incentive pay systems created by last year’s Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) legislation. In addition to asking physicians to work with health care IT innovators to create systems that work best according to their practice’s respective needs, CMS is calling on the private sector to create apps and analytic tools that will keep data secure while fostering true and widespread interoperability.
Anyone seeking to block data transfer will find CMS is not their friend. Mr. Slavitt said. “We’re deadly serious about interoperability. Technology companies that look for ways to practice data blocking in opposition to new regulations will find that it will not be tolerated.”
Dr. James L. Madara, CEO of the American Medical Association, echoed Mr. Slavitt’s comments on the current, negative impact of EHRs on physicians’ practices. He noted that many physicians are spending at least 2 hours each workday using their EHR and may click up to 4,000 times per 8-hour shift.
Dr. Madara outlined three AMA goals to help restore the physician-patient relationship. The first is to restructure the medical school curriculum, which he said essentially is the same as it has been for 100 years. New generations of physicians should be taught how to deliver collaborative care that includes telemedicine, more ambulatory care, and home care. Community-based partnerships, he said, would become key to treating chronic diseases like diabetes and would have to be factored into reimbursement models. The AMA also seeks to improve health outcomes and ensure thriving physician practices.
Central to the AMA’s plan for the future: Helping physicians restructure practice via technology. He announced that the AMA is a founding partner in the Silicon Valley (Calif.) based Health2047, a company focused on supporting health IT and other entrepreneurs in their efforts to provide physicians with digital tools that improve patient outcomes, among other innovations.
With MACRA set to go into full effect in 2019, Dr. Madara said that a “daunting” level of change is about to take place. Citing the successful shift to ICD-10, he said he was optimistic there would be positive changes, largely brought about through incentives to the private marketplace and by dropping meaningful use.
Although having metrics in health care delivery is important, Dr. Madara said that, up to this point, “We kinda got it wrong” with quality measures that are more processed based, rather than evidence based. “It was really great to hear about the move from meaningful use to a more aggregated program.”
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