CMS MU audits prove burdensome

A batch of meaningful use audits was recently conducted by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to ensure that all eligible providers in the EHR Incentive Programs are adhering to meaningful use requirements. The health care professionals who have been audited so far have expressed disapproval of the process, saying that they found it difficult to pass and more burdensome than expected. 

AAFP voices concerns for members
One organization that has complained about the audits was the American Academy of Family Physicians, writing a letter to the CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt. It had heard from several of its members that the auditing process caused them unnecessary hardship. 

The AAFP explained that providers had been counting on the financial incentives from the EHR Incentive Programs to cover some of the finances they put toward electronic health record adoption. However, the practices that were randomly selected by the Office of the Inspector General under the Department of Health and Human Services are now at risk of losing these incentives. 

AAFP Board Chair Reid Blackwelder, M.D., also noted that it seemed as though the auditors had no background in health IT or any knowledge of EHR implementation. This ultimately led to miscommunication between physicians and the auditors, which took valuable time away from doctors who could have been caring for patients. He cited stories in which physicians had to go back and forth with their auditors and then wait several weeks for an audit resolution. 

The association is only one of many that are urging the CMS to find a solution to these significant dilemmas that are taking a toll on physicians and direct patient care. 

Auditing process causes providers to fall behind
The results of audits performed since the process began have not come close to the success that the CMS has hoped for. In fact, according to EHR Intelligence, as of last year 650 hospitals and 10,000 providers have been selected. A total of 22 percent of professionals have failed. Hospitals, on the other hand, performed better with a failure rate of 5 percent. 

Physician practices that have experienced drastic alterations, such as having been acquired by a larger health system, have had the hardest time passing their audits. They have faced significant challenges providing the necessary documentation. In fact, a multitude of physicians found it nearly impossible to produce the proper papers for their auditors.

"When the auditors demand that family physician practices produce documentation years after the fact, we find that to be unreasonable, an administrative burden and certainly not timely," wrote Blackwelder.

Missing one necessary documentation will prevent practices from passing, causing them to miss out on their EHR incentives. This is causing many physicians to end up falling behind in their EHR implementation. The AAFP noted the importance of investing in an EHR from a quality vendor that is in tune with meaningful use documentation or it will be extremely challenging for providers to pass. 

"If the government believes that a strong primary care foundation is the key to an improved and sustainable healthcare system, then we urge you to take these issues into account and provide immediate and increased relief to those who have acted responsibly and legally and had no intent to defraud or deceive by participating in the Meaningful Use program," Blackwelder wrote in the letter to the CMS.

The AAFP ended its letter asking the CMS to issue a report on the results of the meaningful use audits. It urges the federal agency to provide important data, such as the number of audits conducted and the failure rate, so providers who have not been selected yet can have an idea of what to expect.