• Aligning complementary programs is also important

    Author | Date May 9, 2012
    The most vociferous comments on the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for Stage 2 Meaningful Use came from hospital, medical, patient advocacy, and consumer associations and groups. One side of the argument called for more reduced requirements and more relaxed timetables; the other showed their support for even stricter regulations and tougher delivery dates. The arguments put forth (and the exchange of a few barbs) highlight the divisive nature of US healthcare, with providers and patients contending for rights.
    There are those, however, who maintain more altruistic aims. The National Committee for Quality Assurance recognizes both the value of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Electronic Health Records (EHR) Incentive Program for Medicare in and of itself and its value to the success of other health information technology (HIT) programs across the nation, such as Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) and Health Care Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS®). And the NCQA’s comments on the NPRM for Stage 2 Meaningful Use indicate their commitment to aligning its program with those of CMS.
    As part of PCMH initiative, NCQA recognizes primary care providers and practices by incentivizing the organization of care around the patient. The patient-centered program employs HIT as a means of more efficiently and effectively managing patient health through enhanced access (e.g., after-hours and online communication), patient collaboration (i.e., shared decision making), and coordination of care (i.e., connecting different specialists across settings).
    So what is NCQA’s recommendation to CMS? If the ultimate aim of incentive programs and initiatives is the same, then they ought to work together toward that common goal. NCQA has already begun its effort of aligning PCMH with Medicare EHR incentives.
    Electronic medical records, clinical decision support tools and other technologies can help practitioners track patients with chronic illness, proactively reach out with preventive care reminders, safely prescribe medications and effectively communicate with patients and other providers. In short, HIT supports full medical home transformation. That is why NCQA updated our PCMH program to closely align with Meaningful Use in 2011.
    What we’re talking about then is a little reciprocity in the form of reducing the “reporting burden on both regulators and clinicians” and encouraging “more clinicians to seek PCMH recognition and Meaningful Use incentive payments.”
    Aligning program requirements is key to success
    This is not the first time we’ve heard about contending program deadlines leading providers to choose between programs rather than participate in both (e.g., the Electronic Prescribing Incentive Program). Collaboration, therefore, needs to come from the top down as well as from the bottom up. What’s at stake is billions of dollars in incentives from the pockets of taxpayers, so it’s doubly “important to make gains over time and the wise use of taxpayer dollars.”
    Stay tuned for more when the NPRM becomes final. For now, it’s encouraging to see that some organizations are motivated by more than their own success.
    Image Credit: NCQA
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