Acting CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt’s recent comments about the Meaningful Use program (incentivizing physicians to use electronic health record systems) are being described as the “death of MU”. Before you start picking out gravestones, remember two things.
First, take a close look at what he said: “The Meaningful Use program as it has existed, will now be effectively over and replaced with something better.” That signals a significant shift in the MU measures and focus. It does not indicate CMS will end of all aspects of the program.
Second, keep in mind the recent statutory change to MU. The MU program, with incentives and payment adjustments, was established under the ARRA stimulus legislation in 2009. The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) calls for MU to sunset as a separate payment adjustment, but continue as a component of the new Merit-based Incentive Payments System (MIPS). Under MACRA, the MIPS adjustment factor, starting with the 2019 payment year, will include a determination whether a provider who is eligible for MU and MIPS was “a meaningful EHR user” during the performance period. Also, MACRA doesn’t alter the hospital payment adjustments that were set up in ARRA.
In short, CMS will soon change the program name, as well as the measures for Meaningful Use, shifting to an outcomes focus to support value-based payments.
It’s safe to assume the term “Meaningful Use” will render negative connotations to many clinicians for a long time. But, with new payment models as the drivers rather than MU incentives, healthcare providers will embrace the act of using health information technology in meaningful ways— to coordinate care and improve patient outcomes. In this new paradigm, interoperable technology systems will be demanded across the healthcare ecosystem.