- Sixteen healthcare organizations are seeking a delayed implementation of Stage 3 Meaningful Use and similar requirements for eligible clinicians participating in the Merit-based Incentive Payment System.
Including the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), Medical Group Management Association, and Premier Inc., the organizations recently penned a letter to Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Tom Price, MD, calling for less-strict reporting requirements and measures to ease administrative and financial burden on providers.
The organizations called on Secretary Price to make good on his comments about the role of health IT in improving the quality and efficiency of care made during a series of confirmation hearings.
“During your confirmation hearings, you spoke about the incredible value that health information technology (IT) has on creating a more effective and efficient delivery system. At the same time, you referenced the need to align our regulatory system with providers’ real-world needs,” the February 17 letter stated.
“We look forward to working with you on ensuring patients benefit from the best technology has to offer and that the goal of a truly interoperable healthcare system comes to fruition,” it continued. “We applaud your leadership in this area and support many of the provisions in the 21st Century Cures Act aimed at improving the state of healthcare interoperability and the functionality of certified electronic health record technology (CEHRT).”
Based on that need for alignment and interoperability, the 16 organizations have requested a delay in implementing Stage 3 Meaningful Use and Stage 3-like measures in MIPS.
Since its inception, meaningful use requirements have proven a point of contention among healthcare providers for its overly-stringent requirements and sometimes overwhelming regulatory burden.
With the implementation of the Quality Payment Program as part of MACRA implementation, eligible clinicians (i.e., Medicare physicians and non-hospital providers) are required to adhere to either MIPS or Advanced Alternative Payment Models (APMs) to qualify for incentive payments and avoid financial penalties.
While healthcare providers are eager to implement EHR systems equipped with all the capabilities necessary to optimize patient care, improve health outcomes, and encourage interoperability, the pressure of meeting unrealistic requirements and complex regulations puts a strain on clinicians and their practices.
”Our members are very concerned with the unrealistic timeframe and the difficult-to-meet requirements laid out in Stage 3 of the Meaningful Use program, as well as with the related requirements under MIPS,” stated the letter.
To ease the tension between providers and impending federally-enforced regulations, the subscribed organizations outlined components of the program proving most bothersome for their members, including difficulty adjusting to Modified Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements and making a smooth transition to MIPS.
More time to transition to MIPS could offer providers much-needed breathing room to adapt to their upgraded EHR systems and achieve a level of comfort with new technologies.
The pressure to stay ahead of looming reporting deadlines and avoid payment penalties has kept many providers preoccupied with EHR documentation and taken the focus away from delivering quality patient care — a criticism Secretary Price has held regarding meaningful use requirements.
Members also reflected concern over the viability of requiring only the use of 2015 Edition CEHRT:
Complicating matters is the fact that only approximately one percent (56) of EHRs have been certified to the 2015 Edition compared with the number which have been certified for the previous version (3,724) now in use. Since the 2015 Edition is required for use in 2018 by providers for Stage 3 and MIPS, it is extremely unlikely that vendors will be able to deliver the systems in time for providers to test and deploy them by January 1, 2018. Without these systems providers face rushed implementations which may jeopardize patient safety coupled with the potential for substantial financial penalties.
With 171,000 eligible providers facing payment penalties this year according to CMS, the possibility of failing to meet upcoming requirements is an unappealing and likely prospect. Compounded by the fact that providers are being forced to invest in third-party vendors to support electronic quality measure reporting requirements, the financial stress of keeping pace with lofty EHR use objectives is not so much motivating as it is frustrating, according to these organizations.
On top of requesting the indefinite delay of all Stage 3 Meaningful Use requirements, the group of organizations is also requesting that HHS formally notify providers of a delay in 2015 Edition CEHRT requirements and any changes in hospital reporting of electronic clinical quality measures (eCQM). Many providers lack the necessary EHR technology to electronically report eCQMs, putting them at a significant disadvantage when trying to meet these specific expectations, the letter noted.