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End of Meaningful Use is near, says CMS

Just a few months ago, it was all systems go for Stage 3 of Meaningful Use—the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) program that awards incentives for using certified electronic health records to improve patient care—but an overhaul will effectively end the program, according to acting CMS administrator Andy Slavitt, who discussed the impending changes in his remarks on January 11 at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.

“Now that we effectively have technology into virtually every place care is provided, we are now in the process of ending Meaningful Use and moving to a new regime culminating with the MACRA implementation,” said Slavitt, referring to the Medicare Access & CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, which passed with bipartisan support and was signed into law on April 16, 2015.

“The Meaningful Use program as it has existed, will now be effectively over and replaced with something better,” added Slavitt. That “something better” will be aligned with—and streamlined according to—the MACRA, which emphasizes the new Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and incentive payments for participation in certain Alternative Payment Models (APMs).

CMS plans to announce details of this next stage over the next few months, said Slavitt. In the meantime, he identified several themes guiding the implementation, notably a move away from rewarding providers for the use of technology and toward the outcome they achieve with their patients. Additionally, “providers will be able to customize their goals so tech companies can build around the individual practice needs, not the needs of the government,” he noted.

Other initiatives designed to promote user-centered technology that effectively supports physicians include a leveling of the technology playing field for startups and new market entrants by requiring open APIs.

Finally, said Slavitt, “We are deadly serious about interoperability.” To that end, new programs will involve physicians and consumers and apply technology to address “critical use” cases such as closing referral loops and engaging a patient in their care.

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