The decision by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to end the electronic health records Meaningful Use program by the end of 2016 is a smart and timely move, says James Holly, MD, CEO at Southeast Texas Medical Association, with seven sites and 49 providers.

Meaningful Use has long passed its usefulness, Holly believes. The emphasis on electronic physician documentation has been surpassed by the need to focus on population health management, but at least CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt now is getting set to pull the trigger, he contends. Still, Holly wonders if Meaningful Use was worth the time and money spent.

While the EHR program is ending, that doesn’t negate the huge sums that Southeast Texas Medical—a patient-centered medical home since 2010—has spent on becoming a “meaningful user” just to turn around and spend more money to get ready for population health management, which the MU program never supported well, according to Holly. And many other providers have had the same experience. “We all had to do the same thing the same way every time; all we did was rubberstamp and check the box.”

In announcing the pending demise of Meaningful Use, Slavitt promised to replace it with “something better.” CMS isn’t giving any indication of what that might mean beyond rolling multiple physician reporting programs into a new streamlined program.

Also See: EHR Meaningful Use Program to End in 2016, CMS Leader Says

Holly would like the new program to involve quality metrics now being reported for the Merit Incentive Payment System, Meaningful Use, PQRS, ACO and Medicare Advantage programs being rolled up into one standard that focuses on quality outcomes.

What most disappoints Holly about Slavitt’s announcement, however, was the tone, particularly as Slavitt asserted: “We’re deadly serious about interoperability” and issued a warning that “data blockers would not be tolerated.”

Not only did Meaningful Use itself become a barrier to interoperability, but more importantly, the move to accountable care and population health management requires collaboration, not warnings, Holly says. “These phrases and concepts are not collegial; they’re not collaborative.”

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