While everyone was busy filling out their NCAA brackets (sorry, Michigan State fans), the government was quickly passing a bipartisan bill that will supposedly reshape the Meaningful Use program as it enters into the uncharted waters of MIPS.
By now, you’ve probably heard that MU stage 3 will likely die change. There’s really no surprise there. Low participation levels will get even lower now that CMS is giving away free hardship passes for the 2015 reporting period. If I had a farm to bet, I would say this year will probably have fewer attestations than 2011. With MU making up 25% of a provider’s MIPS score, and 2017 being the first surveillance year, a big change to the program needs to happen—and fast!
Cue the Improving Health Information Technology Act, which I’ll shorten to the IHIT Act.
The cure for MU?
“Our goal is to make our country’s electronic health record system something that helps patients rather than something that doctors and hospitals dread so much that patients are not helped.” –Sen. Lamar Alexander
The IHIT Act is the product of a health IT working group formed by the Senate (known as the HELP committee). The goal was to provide a path to move away from the burden of documentation to a place where technology, usability, patient safety, and policy could all live in harmony. Sounds like a pretty ambitious goal to me!
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) introduced the bill as the most important work that the HELP committee has done to date. Alexander said that moving away from a fee-for-service model to a value-based payment model will “absolutely depend on the success of electronic medical records.” However, he said EHRs are currently “in a ditch” and believes that the IHIT Act will be an answer out. Apparently the rest of the Senate agreed, and the bill easily passed (22-0).
The IHIT Act in a nutshell
The HELP committee believes the following 7 focus areas will help revive the meaningful usage of EHRs:
- Assisting Doctors and Hospitals in Improving Quality of Care for Patients
- Reduces documentation burdens by developing goals as to what documentation is actually needed to maintain quality
- Allows providers to practice at the top of their license by allowing non-physician members of the care team to document on behalf of physicians
- Encourages the certification of health information technology (HIT) for specialty providers
- Transparent Ratings on Usability and Security to Transform Information Technology (TRUST IT)
- Creates a rating system for HIT products to help providers make choices (how they will keep it unbiased is still yet to be seen!)
- Allows HIT users to share feedback on the user experience of specific HIT products
- Information Blocking
- Gives the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) the authority to investigate and establish deterrents to information blocking (We all kind of saw this one.)
- Convenes data-sharing networks to develop a voluntary model framework and common agreement for the secure exchange of health information across existing networks to help foster bridging between networks
- Creates a digital provider directory to both facilitate exchange and allow users to verify the correct recipient
- Requires that HHS give deference to standards developed in the private sector
- Leveraging Health Information Technology to Improve Patient Care
- Requires that certified HIT exchange data with registries if registries are certified to use standards endorsed by the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC)
- Includes vendors in Patient Safety Organizations to allow for improvements in the safety and effectiveness of HIT
- Empowering Patients and Improving Patient Access to Their Electronic Health Information
- Requires that certified HIT exchange data with registries if registries are certified to use standards endorsed by the Of
- Supports the certification and development of patient-centered health record technology so that patients can access their health information through secure and user-friendly software that may update automatically
- Encourages the use of Health Information Exchanges to promote patient access by educating providers and clarifying misunderstandings
- Requires HHS to clarify situations where it is permissible for providers to share patient information by providing best practices and common cases where sharing is allowed
- GAO Study on Patient Matching
- Directs the Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study to review methods for securely matching patient records to the correct patient
CMS Acting Administrator (Andy Slavitt) and the National Coordinator at ONC (Karen DeSalvo) also echoed similar themes during their comments on March 2 at HIMSS.
There is still so much that needs to be ironed out before I jump on the IHIT Act bandwagon. However, from first glance, it doesn’t seem that troublesome. (Well. maybe #2 does.) Do you think the IHIT Act is moving in the right direction, or do you think providers are checked out for good? We would love to hear your thoughts!
Diana Strubler, Senior Product Analyst, Health IT Standards, joined Acumen in 2010 as an EHR trainer then quickly moved into the role of certification and health IT standards subject matter expert. She has successfully led Acumen through three certifications while also guiding our company and customers through the world of Meaningful Use, ICD-10 and PQRS.