EHR Meaningful Use to End in 2016, CMS Leader Says

The Meaningful Use program will be ending some time in 2016, confirmed Andy Slavitt, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, on Monday.

The announcement follows months of suggestions by healthcare stakeholders that the program, intended to incentivize the use of electronic health records, had run its course. In remarks in a West Coast conference. In his remarks, it was clear that Slavitt agreed.

“Now that we effectively have technology in virtually every place where care is provided, we’re now in the process of ending Meaningful Use and moving to a new regime culminating with the MACRA implementation,” Slavitt said during a presentation at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco. “The meaningful use program as it has existed will effectively be over and replaced with something better.”

What “something better” is remains cloudy. MACRA, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, is legislation that authorized new payment models for providers, including the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS).

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Slavitt said details will roll out during the next several months on what will replace Meaningful Use, but it will include sunsetting multiple provider reporting programs, such as Meaningful Use and the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS), and aligning them into a new program.

The goal, which Slavitt has articulated recently and reiterated at the conference, is to move away from rewarding providers for use of technology and toward achieving good patient outcomes, and to let providers customize their goals so that technology can build around individual practice needs.

Slavitt also wants to level the playing field for start-up companies, including use of open APIs (application programming interfaces) “to open the physician desktop and allow apps, analytic tools and connected technologies to get data in and out of information systems securely.”

And he warned the industry, particularly vendors: “We’re deadly serious about interoperability.” Better interoperability is necessary to close referral loops and engage patients in their care, he noted, “and data blockers will not be tolerated.”

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