- In hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health this morning, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives will voice its support for a House bill to improve the EHR Incentive Programs by reducing the number of EHR-related hardship exemptions.
In written testimony submitted prior to today’s hearing on improving Medicare, CHIME Chairman-Elect Cletis Earle emphasizes the importance of making key policy decisions to ensure that future health IT adoption builds on the successes of meaningful use to date.
“As we stand now, more than eight years after passage of HITECH, there exists an opportunity to make policy decisions apart from the arbitrary deadlines and measures of the EHR Incentive Program,” he argues. “We are at an inflection point where our gains can be used to pivot towards the longterm goal of building and supporting a national digital health ecosystem that is interoperable and which best supports patient outcomes.”
To that end, Earle’s testimony includes CHIME’s support for HR 3120 whose goal is eliminate the need for hardship requests stemming from EHR implementation and adoption challenges among providers:
“As hospitals and providers continue to struggle with the meeting the timelines and requirements of the Meaningful Use program, there will become an increased reliance on hardship exemptions,” he states. . For the 2017 program year, EPs transitioning to Advancing Care Information (ACI) performance category under the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) in the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) programs who have never participated in the Meaningful Use program can file for a hardship exemption.”
As Earle notes, CMS acknowledged the difficulty that eligible providers face in transitioning from one EHR platform to another to maintain compliance with meaningful use requirements back in 2015. Without a proper adjustment to these requirements, eligible participants in the EHR Incentive Programs were forced to file for a hardship exemption and forfeit the opportunity to attest successfully for EHR incentive payments.
CHIME contends that the House bill should remediate this problem.
“Rather than propose the elimination of the Meaningful Use program or insist that requirements remain stagnant in perpetuity, it leaves it to the discretion of the Secretary to modify the requirements over time as deemed necessary in conjunction with the industry,” Earle maintains. “Meeting the requirements established in regulations that often consist of 1,000 or more pages places unreasonable demands on limited resources and finances. The ability to shift away from that continual churn would be a welcome development for the provider community.”
According to Earle, HR 3120 should serve as stepping stone for federal officials to assist the healthcare industry address longstanding and emerging health IT-related concerns.
“Health information exchange is in its infancy, and interoperability has not and will not be a direct result of the Meaningful Use program,” he explains. “It is imperative that the federal government, along with the private sector, as directed in the 21st Century Cures Act, prioritize policies like the adoption of robust healthcare data standards and the ability to link patients to their records across all care settings.”
“There is no question that the federal government must have a role in facilitating interoperability,” he continues, “but, it should not be implied, nor assumed, that it is going to occur with the measures proposed for the Meaningful Use program.”
The regulatory support of Congress will also ensure that providers have the resources to focus on emerging cybersecurity threats, which have become a top priority for healthcare CIOs such as Earle.
“Providers are eager to deploy solutions that will allow for active engagement with patients and caregivers. However, they want to make sure this is done in a manner that will not jeopardize patient data and leave their networks vulnerable to external threats,” he states.
Today’s hearing takes place at 10am and a livestream is available.