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CMS to Prioritize Health IT Innovation, Regulatory Relief

CMS named health IT innovation and regulatory relief through reduced clinical documentation demands as top priorities in 2018.

Health IT Innovation

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- This year CMS will prioritize health IT innovation and regulatory relief for clinical documentation, according to CMS Administrator Seema Verma.

Verma discussed the federal agency’s 2018 goals with AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack during a recent webcast about regulatory relief. Pollack applauded CMS efforts to reduce administrative burden associated with meaningful use, but urged the agency to push for further relief in the year ahead.

 “While it’s important to recognize that we’ve made progress under your leadership, we see today’s session as a very positive step in an effort to make even further improvements,” he said.

Verma stated CMS intends to keep the government from impeding the patient-provider relationship as much as possible by reducing the amount of regulations published this year.

“CMS puts out 11,000 pages of regulations every year,” she said. “I’m not sure how the healthcare system has been dealing with this over the years but we are dedicated to trying to address that issue.”

READ MORE: WPI Receives $5 million for Health IT Innovation Initiative

The Patients Over Paperwork initiative will assist in achieving this aim. Patients Over Paperwork is a collaborative effort between AHA, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), and thirty-three other provider organizations centered on evaluating and streamlining regulations to minimize regulatory burden, increase efficiency, and improve the beneficiary experience.

 “We’re also preparing for a new generation of beneficiaries,” said Verma. “Especially in our Medicare program where we know this is a more tech savvy population that’s coming into the program.”

As part of the initiative, CMS intends to facilitate the development and use of health IT innovations to modernize Medicare and Medicaid.

“How can we prepare and how can we give them the tools that they’re going to expect – they’re going to expect more of an Amazon experience,” she said. “Our focus is going to be on both modernizing the Medicare and the Medicaid program.”

“Also looking at the program in terms of accommodating all of the different kinds of innovation and technology that is now available in the United States – we want to make sure our beneficiaries can avail all of that,” she added.

CMS will also continue to pare down quality measures as part of its Meaningful Measures initiative. Meaningful Measures is intended to ensure quality metrics only involve evaluating core issues.

“There have been challenges around measurement and quality performance, in terms of the burden we’re putting on providers,” she said. “We’re looking at every measure across the board with CMS and we’re saying, do we need it? Why is this important? Has it topped out? Is it really achieving quality and value?”

READ MORE: ONC Chief Keen on Moving Health IT Innovation Beyond the EHR

In December, CMS released its list of 32 measures under consideration (MUC) as part of Meaningful Measures. The list has been submitted to the National Quality Forum (NQF) to gain input from stakeholders including patients, families, caregivers, clinicians, commercial payers, and others about which measures are best suited for inclusion in Medicare quality reporting and value-based purchasing programs.

Verma also said CMS will further its efforts to reduce regulatory burden for rural hospitals, which are especially sensitive to administrative burden because of size and resource limitations.

Toward this end, Verma stated CMS now looks at every policy through a rural lens.

“We need to see how this policy is going to affect the rural providers,” she said. “We’re working with our office of rural health.”

“I understand they might just need more time or more technical assistance around implementations, or some things just may not make sense in a rural area,” she continued. “We’re trying to have as much flexibility as possible to accommodate both rural and urban providers.”

READ MORE: Health Data Integrity the Focus of ONC Innovation Challenge

One way CMS will gain insight into the challenges rural and urban providers face when trying to meet federal requirements will involve sending CMS personnel into healthcare organizations to see firsthand how regulations impact daily operations. 

CMS staff working on the Patients Over Paperwork initiative will visit healthcare facilities, meet providers, and get a clear idea of the day-to-day effects of administrative burden.

“Until you’re actually in the situation of having to implement the regulations, you may not understand how they need to be changed,” said Verma.

Staff members in small practices have urged CMS to visit healthcare facilities and see the effect of regulatory burden in the past. In an interview with EHRIntelligence.com, Jacksonville Foot Clinic Business Administrator Helen Jason recommended government entities shadow providers in small, rural, or specialty practices to gain perspective on the lengths these practices must go to meet requirements.

By keeping provider satisfaction top-of-mind, regulators can effectively reduce administrative burden and improve the patient-provider relationship.  



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