Electronic Health Records

Adoption & Implementation News

Modifications to Meaningful Use Requirements Find Backing

By Vera Gruessner

Last month, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a new proposed rule with several key modifications to meaningful use requirements under the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs. The general public has until June 15 to submit comments to this particular proposed ruling.

The changes are meant to modify the EHR reporting periods from 2015 to 2017. The new reporting period was transitioned to a 90-day period that would line up with the calendar year. Additionally, patient engagement measures under the Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements were changed.

If the ruling is passed, no longer will providers have to ensure that 5 percent of their patients download, view, and transmit their health information over the next couple of years. According to the proposed rule, only one patient will need to utilize a portal to view, download, or share their medical data.

The American Medical Association (AMA) recently announced their support of the proposed modifications to the meaningful use requirements. In a press release, the AMA stated their prior advocating of offering more flexibility under the EHR Incentive Programs so that providers and healthcare professionals may adopt and utilize health IT systems in a way that benefits their practice and workflow.

“Physicians want to use new technologies that help strengthen physician-patient relationships, improve health outcomes and make them more efficient,” AMA President-elect Steven J. Stack, MD, said in a public statement. “About 80 percent of physicians have already incorporated electronic health records (EHRs) into their practices, but they have faced significant barriers in participating in the Meaningful Use program and many are receiving penalties despite their investments in EHRs. We believe CMS’ proposal offers common sense solutions that, if finalized quickly, will help more physicians use EHRs in a truly meaningful way while supporting patient engagement.”

Within the letter sent to CMS for public comment, the AMA offered additional advice to the organization that could improve attestation to meaningful use requirements. The suggestions revolve around quality measure reporting and removing the overall “pass-fail structure” so that physicians and hospitals that attempted to meet meaningful use requirements and show positive results are not penalized.

Stack continued by discussing the importance of providing patients with secure messaging tools and patient portals and encouraging their consumers to utilize these platforms. At the same time, Stack mentioned that different physicians and healthcare providers have varying circumstances that may impact their ability to have a high percentage of patients viewing their medical information electronically.

For example, providers serving the elderly population or Medicaid-based patients in underserved areas may not have the key demographic that utilizes the Internet, smartphones, or even computers.

The AMA includes guidelines on its website for physicians looking to better engage their patients in their healthcare and the use of the patient portal. The organization is looking to work with physician groups to further patient education regarding accessing health information digitally.

Through these proposed modifications to the meaningful use requirements, CMS will be able to give providers the flexibility needed to successfully attest to the objectives and bring the healthcare industry into the 21st century.

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