By Beth Onofri
“What the heck is going on with Meaningful Use,” is a phrase that is probably popping up for a lot of people right now thanks to the huge number of conflicting articles that are flooding our inboxes. Is Meaningful Use (MU) ending or not? Even Andy Slavitt, CMS Acting Administrator, tweeted “In 2016, MU as it has existed—with MACRA—will now be effectively over and replaced with something better.” A week later, an article was released to clarify his statements.
There is no doubt that changes are coming once again to the EHR Incentive Program. But it is not just changes to the MU program.
There are a number of other programs that will see changes too—PQRS, Value-Based Modifiers, and clinical quality measures. The overall goal is to align all these programs, using the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) as a foundation.
Less than a decade ago, the MU initiative began with the objective to bring technology into the healthcare system. Initiatives encouraged providers to collect data electronically. The phased approach allowed us to move into connecting with one another, sharing the information we collected, and beginning the process of outcome measurement.
MACRA focuses on quality, cost, and clinical practice improvement when calculating how Medicare physician payments are determined. In other words, a shift to focusing on patient care and reimbursement for the quality of that care. It is important to point out that this realignment is strictly for Medicare reimbursement and not for Medicaid. Medicaid physicians will continue to be reimbursed in line with the previously established program.
So, What the Heck Is Going on with MU?
Many of you are wondering what does this mean for me and what should I do now. The answer is: Continue with the MU program. If you have not begun Meaningful Use, begin in 2016. The MU program may be replaced at some point, but the concepts, in particular e-prescribing, interoperability, and clinical quality measures, will continue whatever the initiative may be called.
If you have successfully attested to Meaningful Use, continue collecting the necessary data. The October 6, 2015 CMS rule streamlined Stage 1 and Stage 2 into one stage, Modified Stage 2, with ten (10) objectives. All providers use one set of objectives, no differences for the number of years in the program. Additionally, these objectives will remain basically the same for the next two years, through the 2017 attestation year.
Both new and returning participants should take a closer look at the MU clinical quality measures (CQMs) and the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) measures. Although there has been some attempt in the past to align these two programs, they have been relatively distinct. However, these programs will be aligned, and hopefully consolidated, with the coming changes. Providers should begin to look at the results as well, and not just the collection of information. Trending of outcomes is not far in the future.
Watch for more details and updates on MU coming soon.