The Future of the Meaningful Use Program

meaningfulusedefRecently the American Medical Association (AMA) released a letter to the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) Karen B. DeSalvo and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator, Marilyn B. Tavenner. The 30 page letter states, “After three-and-a-half years of provider participation, we are at a critical crossroad where we believe it is important and necessary to pause and fully assess what is working and what needs improvement before moving ahead to Stage 3 of the program.”  They have released a blueprint to improve the Meaningful Use program giving 4 steps they feel need to be considered:

  • Adopt a more flexible approach for meeting Meaningful Use
  • Expand hardship extension for all MU stages
  • Improve quality reporting
  • Address physician EMR usability challenges

The AMA further states that while over 78% of office-based physicians are using an EHR, less than 24% are using one that can be considered fully functional and they would like to see a policy change that would allow for more flexibility and not penalize physicians for missing a single measure.   Some factors are beyond the control of the doctor and are part of their EMR system, such as issues with interoperability or usability.  The AMA feels that a pass-fail approach should not apply and that lower thresholds need to be used when accessing penalties.  They would like to see a 50% threshold for incurring a penalty and a 75% threshold for earning an incentive.

Looking at the larger picture, in a recent statement AMA president Robert M. Wah stated that “Physicians should not be required to meet measures that are not improving patient care or use systems that are decreasing practice efficiencies. Levying penalties unnecessarily will hinder physicians’ ability to purchase and use new technologies and will hurt their ability to participate in innovative payment and delivery models that could improve the quality of care.”  He also stated, “”The whole point of the EHR incentive program was to build an interoperable health information technology infrastructure that would allow for the routine exchange of important medical information across settings and providers and put medical decision-making tools in the hands of physicians and patients, yet that vision is not being realized and the lack of interoperability is stifling quality improvement.”

On November 4th the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a report showing that less than 17 percent of U.S. hospitals have demonstrated Stage 2 capabilities, fewer than 38 percent of eligible hospitals have met either stage of meaningful use in 2014, and that only 2 percent of eligible professionals have met Stage 2 so far.  CMS data shows that more than 3,900 hospitals must meet Stage 2 measures in 2015 and more than 260,000 eligible professionals will need to be similarly positioned by Jan. 1, 2015.

The Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) is a membership association for professional administrators and leaders of medical group practices.  Anders M. Gilberg, Senior Vice President, government affairs, MGMA stated that “Shortening the reporting period in 2015 is a much needed change if the program is to remain viable and is a critical step if the nation is to continue making progress toward the goal of interoperability.”   In a joint press release, officials from the AMA, CHIME, HIMSS and MGMA said that the numbers are “disappointing, yet predictable,” and called again for more leniency to address providers’ difficulties in meeting federal electronic health record requirements.

Fully functional EHR systems like Greenway PrimeSuite offer practices powerful functionality, comprehensive reports and management tools that are easy to use, up to date and meet interoperability standards.  Meeting current requirements is easier when you have the right tools at your fingertips.