This week’s sudden announcement the meaningful use program will be phased out in 2016 and replaced with something new has been popular to say the least.
The move comes in response to stakeholders’ longtime arguments against the program, and as noted by Marc Probst, CIO for Intermountain Healthcare, it was about time. “Meaningful use, in its current form, has only added a layer of rigid functions to the clinician’s workload, and has not added any additional value for providing quality healthcare to patients,” he says.
He shares a common sentiment that at this point, with digitization having gone mainstream, there is no need for such strict regulation as what was presented in the later stages.
“Fortunately, EHR adoption is moving forward quickly, and enforcement may not be necessary,” he said. “In order to achieve value from the country’s meaningful use investment, we now need to focus on standards.”
However, CMS administrator Andy Slavitt's announcement of the end of the program was so vague that some healthcare IT stakeholders are holding their applause until they hear further details on the plans to come.
Slavitt said details on a replacement program would be released on March 25 and it would incentivize patient outcomes rather than technology use.
“In 2016, MU as it has existed -- with MACRA -- will now be effectively over and replaced with something better,” he tweeted Tuesday.
John Moore of Chilmark Research echoes the sentiment meaningful use accomplished its primary goal of getting providers to adopt EHRs and begin digitizing patient information, and ultimately there will be value in that. “But MU went astray in becoming far too prescriptive and innovation, at least in the EHR space, came to a standstill,” he wrote in a Chilmark blog.
Moore argues development efforts at EHR vendors were forced to focus too heavily on meeting MU certification criteria, while providers were frustrated by attestation requirements that did not seem relevant to the delivery of care.
Moore predicts the end of the MU program will have three major impacts on the market:
- A rapid consolidation in the ambulatory EHR market as a result of MU having created a false market for too many vendors.
- More investment in innovation by the remaining EHR vendors now that certification requirements will no longer be center stage.
- Providers seeking solutions to optimize performance under the new Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), which will still measure them on meaningful use of certified EHR technology. “The upside and potential penalties folded into MIPS represent a 14% swing in potential CMS reimbursement,” Moore wrote.
Exactly how and to what degree MU incentives and penalties will simply re-emerge in other forms remains the million-dollar question.