Verma: Meaningful-use overhaul is coming
(Updated at 4 p.m. ET)
CMS Administrator Seema Verma said her agency is planning on overhauling its meaningful-use requirements, after years of provider complaints that the program was too burdensome and hard to implement.
Specifically, the CMS is looking to reduce time and compliance costs associated with the program. Verma didn't provide any additional details during her speech at HIMSS' annual conference on Tuesday. A CMS spokesman did not return a request for comment on additional details on when or how meaningful use requirements would be overhauled.
Verma on Tuesday also unveiled two new initiatives, including the MyHealthEData program to make it easier for patients to obtain and share their medical records.
"It is extremely rare for different provider systems to be able to share data," Verma said. "In most cases … it's in the financial interest of the provider systems to hold on to the data for their patients."
The CMS plans to require providers to update their systems to ensure data-sharing and to allow a patient's data to follow them after they are discharged from the hospital.
"It's overdue and very exciting," said Dr. Ira Nash, the executive director of Northwell Health Physician Partners, a New York City-area group with 2,800 clinicians. "Data about patients should be patients' data."
Verma also unveiled Medicare's Blue Button 2.0, a web application that provides a secure way for Medicare beneficiaries to access and share their personal health data in a universal digital format.
The application will allow patients to access and share their healthcare information, previous prescriptions, treatments and procedures with a new doctor; such sharing can reduce duplication in testing and provide continuity of care.
"We cannot effectively transition to value-based care unless we give both a provider and a patient all clinical and coverage data at the point of care to inform decisions," said Jeff Micklos, executive director of the Health Care Transformation Task Force, in a statement about the new initiatives. The task force represents both hospitals and insurance companies.
The agency's moves come just weeks after President Donald Trump signed a funding bill that included measures to ease meaningful-use requirements and expand telehealth access for Medicare beneficiaries.
The meaningful-use bill, introduced last summer, could make meeting electronic health record meaningful-use requirements easier since they no longer have to become stricter over time.
That's a change to the way things have been since the HITECH Act was passed. The statute required the HHS secretary to make meaningful-use stipulations increasingly "stringent."
With that provision of the HITECH Act, legislators intended ever-increasing regulations to encourage providers to improve their use of EHRs. But in reality, providers have faced uncertain and unstable requirements and deadlines, and some have had trouble getting EHRs in place at all.
In certain cases, providers struggling to meet the meaningful-use requirements have filed for hardship exemptions. The stated goal of the bill is to reduce those exceptions—or, in other words, to increase the number of providers who succeed in meeting requirements.
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