CMS message at HIMSS: Overhauling “meaningful use”, ensuring interoperability, and patient-ownership of data

Co-authored by Chris McShanag, VP Healthcare Provider Solutions

Last week in Las Vegas, Nevada, senior representatives from the Trump Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) spoke at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference, restating the administration’s commitment to overhaul “meaningful use”, place patients in the driver seat to own and manage their medical data, and ensure interoperability between health information systems.

While no true hard and fast deadlines were given, there was further validation that healthcare providers should begin planning their move away from their traditional “compliance-driven” process and, instead, move their focus to the business, including population health programs, claims and quality scores.

“Meaningful use” overhaul

The CMS agency is planning to roll out a “complete overhaul” of the meaningful use program for hospitals and the Advancing Care Information category of the Quality Payment Program, according to CMS Administrator Seema Verma, which was received with loud applause. Additional scheduled changes to the program include proposed payment rules for physicians and hospitals, to be released later this year.

The stated objective for the overhaul is to both reduce time and compliance costs associated with the meaningful use program and improve its effective outcome.

Easing the “MEANINGFUL USE” burden

This aspect of the announcement continues a series of messages out of Washington that should be well-received by healthcare providers who have been complaining about undue burden for several years. In certain cases, providers struggle to meet the meaningful use requirements, and the stated goal is to reduce the number of providers who have filed for hardship exceptions and increase the number of providers who succeed in meeting requirements.

Improving the program’s outcome

In an industry that has at times struggled to “play nice with others”, this aspect of the announcement will be refreshing to many patient-centric stakeholders. The shift is a positive move away from giving credit for “just having an EHR” to instead recognize and credit physicians that focus on patient outcomes through interoperability and giving patients their unfettered access to their data.

Patient/consumer ownership of medical data

CMS and the White House proposed giving patients unfettered access to their health records and to penalize organizations that engage in data blocking. CMS is launching two specific initiatives designed to give patients access to their records:

  • MyHealthEData – Led by White House Office of American Innovation, MyHealthEData focuses on breaking down the barriers limiting access and improving interoperability.
  • Blue Button 2.0 – This initiative builds on giving Medicare patients access to claims data and engages app developers that meet prescribed standards to plug into this data set.

While providers will need to be vigilant as the next round of rule-making unfolds over the coming months, the regulatory changes issued in the last several months all address some measure of reducing electronic health record (EHR) administrative burden on providers, and it appears CMS is intent on continuing that trend. As for interoperability, increasing it will not be easy and must be tempered by diligent consideration of patient privacy, and the impact on providers remains to be seen.

As health systems and plans look to react to these proposed shifts, the Provider Solutions practice at HighPoint is available to help you move through this time of transition. To learn more about the proposed changes and strategic solutions for providers, contact Chris McShanag.