- CMS Administrator Seema Verma on Tuesday announced a broad array of initiatives to speed interoperability among EHRs and PHRs as well as increase patient access to records, including a revamped personal health record used by Medicare beneficiaries known as Blue Button 2.0.
- In remarks to the HIMSS18 conference, she said CMS will serve as a convener to foster open source standards-based APIs. The goal is to create an ecosystem with clear and consistent standard for developers, like Apple's focus for its iPhone platform.
- Verma said CMS is planning a “complete overhaul” of meaningful use standards for hospitals, but provided few details. She also called on private insurers to give patients access to their personal health data.
Verma cast the policies as essential as the industry moves to a value-based payment system and amid rising healthcare costs.
The audience of health IT professionals, payers and providers gave the biggest round of applause to the vow for a revamp of Meaningful Use.
"CMS will be announcing a complete overhaul of the Meaningful Use program for hospitals, and the Advancing Care Information performance category of the Quality Payment Program," she said.
The Meaningful Use program implemented under the HITECH Act in 2009 offered financial incentives to providers to adopt EHR systems. Despite the wide adoption in the wake of the program, many providers have been flustered over systems' usability and administrative burden.
Verma didn't provide details but added that security will remain paramount. “Ensuring the security of healthcare data will be an absolute requirement in order to avoid negative payment adjustments or to receive an incentive payment,” she said.
The broader initiative is dubbed MyhealthEdata, and will apply across agencies beyond CMS to the VA and NIH.
Verma also took hospitals to task for information blocking. “Let me be crystal clear, the days of finding creative ways to trap patients in your system must end. It’s not acceptable to limit patient records or to prevent them and their doctor from seeing their complete history outside of a particular healthcare system,” she said.
CMS will require providers to update their systems to ensure data sharing and will require that a patient’s data follow them after they are discharged from the hospital, according to a fact sheet.
On the PHR side, CMS is building on the VA's Blue Button program, launched in 2010 to encourage patients to track their health information online. The response was positive, leading other parts of the government to adopt the button for their beneficiaries, including the Defense Department and CMS.
But Verma noted that it currently provides information for patients in Excel or PDF format with no context. The new 2.0 version will use the same secure cloud infrastructure supporting current CMS systems, she said. Application developers will be required to go through an approval process before gaining access to beneficiary data.
As many as 31 million people were using some type of PHR has of 2013, according to an NIH study, up from 8 million just five years earlier.
Finally, Verma called on private insurers to follow CMS’ lead in giving all consumers full access to their medical records. "Today, we are calling on private health plans to join us in sharing their data with patients because enabling patients to control their Medicare data so that they can quickly obtain and share it is critical to creating more patient empowerment.”
Responding to Verma's announcement, athenahealth CPO Kyle Armbrester sent a statement to Healthcare Dive applauding CMS on its efforts to make patient records more accessible.
"While we wish CMS would also take this opportunity to recognize and work with ONC on the burden that the EHR certification program places on users of those products, we recognize CMS' objective as being well-meaning," he wrote. "No one entity can free healthcare from its many burdens and deep-rooted friction, it will take all players to wick away the non-essentials associated with workflows, information access, and technology if we’re going to enter into a more value and innovation-oriented healthcare."