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AHDI Track

The Future of Meaningful Use

Healthcare providers and CIOs are relieved MU will be ending, but they want more details on future programs.

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, enacted as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, promoted the adoption and meaningful use of health information technology. This program was designed to incentivize healthcare facilities and providers to adopt electronic health record (EHR) technology in order to improve quality, safety, and efficiency and empower and engage patients and families. It was hoped that the program, which was to be phased in over five years, would result in more robust research data and improve health outcomes while maintaining privacy and security of patient health information.1

Speaking at the J.P. Morgan Annual Health Care Conference on January 11, 2016, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt discussed how the Medicare and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) will roll MU into the merit-based incentive payment system (MIPS).  Acting Administrator Slavitt stated that, "The meaningful use (MU) program, as it has existed, will now be effectively over and replaced with something better."   He said that CMS had been "working side by side with physician organizations" and had "listened to the needs and concerns of many."  He added that the focus will move away from physicians' use of electronic health records and toward the outcomes they achieve with patients.2

Healthcare providers and CIOs expressed relief that MU would be ending. However, many wanted more details on future programs. Paul Tang, MD, Chief Medical Information Officer at Sutter Health's Palo Alto Medical Foundation, commented that, "The early stages of Meaningful Use took the country from 'zero to 60' in five years, a remarkable achievement that would not have been possible without HITECH. Now, it's time for the new payment model that rewards providers for achieving better health outcomes to be the driver of innovation, using the new electronic infrastructure that is now in place. That was the vision for [MU] 'Phase 3' from the very beginning."3
 
On Jan. 19, Acting Administrator Slavitt and HHS Acting Assistant Secretary for Health Karen DeSalvo posted comments on the CMS Blog (blog.cms.gov) to clarify that physicians will still be required to attest to the criteria of MU using certified electronic health record technology.  Several principles were identified, including rewarding providers for outcomes technology, allowing providers the flexibility to customize health IT to their individual practice needs, leveling the technology playing field to promote innovation, and prioritizing interoperability by implementing national standards and focusing on real-world uses of technology.  They encouraged the healthcare community to review the new MACRA regulations in order to plan for what's next and continue to provide input.  Slavitt and DeSalvo commented that the MU to MACRA transition "won't happen overnight."  The MACRA regulations are due to be released in 2016.  In the meantime, all existing MU regulations, including Stage 3, will remain in effect.4

In February, the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI) submitted a response to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee's draft legislation for patient-centered electronic health record (EHR) use and its commitment to helping improve workflow inefficiencies, leading to physician dissatisfaction.  AHDI continues to monitor this proposed legislation.  

While the future of the Meaningful Use program continues to be uncertain, AHDI continues to promote patient access to medical records through its Your Records Speaks campaign.  This online tool (www.yourrecordspeaks.org) provides patients with resources and information to allow them to engage with providers, access their medical records, and create personal health records (PHRs). 

AHDI also works with clinicians and facilities to promote the quality and integrity of healthcare documentation, regardless of how this documentation is created.  In 2014 AHDI and AHIMA worked together to develop a resource kit outlining best practices for clinician-created documentation.5

In May AHDI will celebrate the anniversary of National Medical Transcriptionist Week, first proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan in 1985.  MTs, also known as healthcare documentation specialists, consistently achieve documentation accuracy rates higher than 99%.  By harnessing the expertise of this workforce in terms of data integrity and medical language, physicians' time, coding, and revenue are optimized; data governance strategies are reinforced and strengthened; and comprehensive and accurate patient health stories are preserved.  National MT Week will be celebrated from May 15-21, with this year's theme being "Patients Depend on Our Precision."  More information can be obtained by visiting www.ahdionline.org/NMTW.

References
1. https://www.healthit.gov/providers-professionals/meaningful-use-definition-objectives
2. http://www.aafp.org/news/opinion/20160128guestedmu.html
3. http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/cios-celebrate-end-meaningful-use-want-more-details-future-programs
4. http://www.himss.org/News/NewsDetail.aspx?ItemNumber=46506
5. http://www.ahdionline.org/?QAcliniciancreated

Sheryl Williams has been employed within the healthcare documentation industry in a variety of capacities for more than 25 years. She is serving on the AHDI National Leadership Board as the District 3 Director and Treasurer.

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