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LOOKING BACK AT EHR MEANINGFUL USE FROM A NEW PERSPECTIVE

ARRA – The American Reinvestment & Recovery Act was legalized on February 17th, 2009. It aimed to revolutionize many economic and social sectors including healthcare. Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act was also one of its considerations. This act was in great support of the meaningful use of the electronic healthcare records (EHRs), an initiative by the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) and the Office of National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC).

Its emphasis on the implementation of EHR technology throughout the USA. Moreover, it is also in accordance with the MIPS quality measure Promoting Interoperability (PI) in which physicians use innovative methods to improve the quality of care services. It requires the use of certified EHR technology to provide a secure exchange of healthcare information.

Plays an Important Role in MIPS Data Submission

Meaningful use of EHR technology also helps physicians to efficiently submit MIPS data to CMS. On the other hand, physicians using this technology can also report measures regarding value-based services to the Secretary of Health & Human Services (HHS) and get incentives.

The Need for Meaningful Use (MU) Act

This act is helpful in generating five possible outcomes for the betterment of the healthcare industry.

  • Improvement in public health
  • Improved coordination in healthcare sectors
  • Increased engagement of physicians and patients
  • Protect patient’s private data from unauthorized use
  • Improved services, safety, and efficiency of the healthcare system

What benefits physicians have for meaningfully using EHR technology?

The incentive payment ranges from $44,000 for 5 years to $63,750 for 6 years (Starting from 2011).   Eligible physicians (EPs) and eligible hospitals (EHs) demonstrating adaptation and efficient use of EHR, get valuable rewards. To encourage physicians to go for EHR meaningful use and reduce the burden for healthcare providers, it is classified into three stages.

Stage 1 of Meaningful Use

The requirements of this stage are divided into the 15 core set and 10 menu set objectives. There is an option of choosing 5 out of 10 menu set objectives with the compulsion of at least one population/public health measure.

Stage 2 of Meaningful Use

CMS and ONC have also set standards for the second stage of meaningful use (MU). It released final rule for incentive programs of Medicare, Medicaid and EHR technology in August 2012.

For this stage, eligible physicians are required to meet for the exclusion to 17 core objectives and 3 out of 6 menu set objectives.

Whereas, it was must for eligible hospitals and Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) to qualify for an exclusion to 16 core objectives and 3 out of 6 menu objectives.

Stage 3 of Meaningful Use

In the modified version of stage 2 meaningful use for 2015-2017, clinicians attest to any combination of 2 measures out of 3, while EHs and CAHs attest for any combination of 3 measures out of 4. For stage 3, submitting data for meaningful use was obligatory in 2018.

ONC along with HHS (Department of Human Health & Services) released a final rule in the context of meaningful use and gave certification to 2015 edition of electronic healthcare records (EHRs). This initiative allowed diverse types of healthcare organizations to get access to healthcare IT.

Thus, medical practices that adopted EHR technology in previous years are now in benefit and can target more incentives, as they have completely understood this method. To get incentives and adopt healthcare IT, physicians should invest their efforts in this system respectively.

HITECH provides high opportunities for healthcare providers to improve their medical practice. The phased approach of three stages allows room for improvement in the public health sector. Moreover, it sets the base of the healthcare system with fewer discrepancies and controls chronic diseases.

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HIGHLIGHTED ASPECTS OF MEDICARE USAGE OF EHR TECHNOLOGY FOR HOSPITALS!

Healthcare industry emphasizes on value-based medical services to patients with the correct use of technology and innovation. The purpose is to empower physicians’ RCM and patients with the right to choose quality care services. MIPS is a great addition in this context. It allows physicians taking small steps towards a better healthcare system. However, along with MIPS, the Medicare EHR incentive program also shares the responsibility with the same approach.

Since many hospitals don’t use EHR technology until now. However, the healthcare industry will only progress forward in a secure environment when using the latest technologies. For encouraging physicians and boosting their RCM, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) initiated a program under Medicare. It was to facilitate eligible physicians to use the Certified Electronic Health Record (CEHR) technology meaningfully.

CMS named this program as Medicare Promoting Interoperability (PI) since last year. MIPS also contains this category featuring the benefits of this program, ensuring advancement in healthcare services with the appropriate use of EHRs. This measure appreciates interoperability efforts and applauses for allowing reasonable access of patients to information.

What if Clinicians don’t meet the Promoting Interoperability (PI) criteria!

Healthcare organizations that don’t illustrate correct depiction of PI will not get payment adjustment for the respective year.
Healthcare, which participates in both incentive programs i.e; Medicare and Medicaid EHR programs can subject to payment adjustments only when it demonstrates the true value in its reporting.

Reporting Criteria for EHR Incentive Program

Prior to 2018, physicians demonstrated EHR use via either CMS Medicare EHR Incentive Programs Attestation System or the state’s attestation system. Now, QNet System confirms the EHR meaningful use and payment adjustments are calculated via a formula specified by the CMS.

What Expectations should clinicians have for payment adjustments for 2019?

Eligible healthcare organizations, which are not meaningful EHR users, get payment adjustment as a reduction to the applicable percentage proportional to the Inpatient Prospective Program System (IPPS). Thus, it reduces the IPPS standardized amount of healthcare centers.

What are the hardship exceptions?

Eligible hospitals can avoid negative payment adjustments through hardship exceptions on day-to-day scenarios. Sometimes, CMS itself determines that eligible healthcare falls in an exceptional case.

To apply as an exception, clinicians or hospitals can get information on the official CMS website.

https://www.cms.gov/Regulations-and- Guidance/Legislation/EHRIncentivePrograms/PaymentAdj_Hardship.html

Given below are the categories for hardship exception cases.

1. New Eligible Healthcare Organizations

Healthcare organizations having new CMS Certification Numbers (CCNs) and insufficient time to submit data can get relaxation for 1 year.

2. Infrastructure Liabilities

Eligible hospitals having no Internet access in their operating area or with insufficient resources to meet the threshold of EHR meaningful use.

3. Unexpected Circumstances

In the case of natural disasters or unforeseen conditions.

4. Vendor Related Issues

Hospitals can apply for this category when they encounter EHR vendor issues to obtain a certification or due to related delays.

What will physicians get in return for their efforts?

  • The foremost purpose is to avoid negative Medicare payment adjustment, and thus revenue cycle management becomes efficient, supporting all the financial matters.
  • The healthcare system improves, and the transparency travels across the board from a higher level to a lower level.

Thus, EHR technology is not just about technology incorporation but a way to fill gaps between patient and physician. Moreover, the advancement in its context helps in successfully submitting clinical data for MIPS as well. Consequently, the healthcare industry flourishes.

Consult the official CMS website for further information https://www.cms.gov EHRIncentivePrograms

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Key Points:

  • EHR incentive program
  • The result when not submit data for this program
  • Payment adjustment criteria
  • Hardship exceptional cases
  • Advantages