Proposed MU ruling receives support from AMA

MU modifications receive support from AMA

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services made key alterations to the meaningful use requirements in order to upgrade the standards for the stage 3 meaningful use rules to be released in 2016. Many eligible providers participating in the Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs have expressed disapproval of the requirements for stage 1 and 2, saying that they are not flexible enough to meet. The CMS released the new proposed standards in April, giving members of the health care sector until June 15 to assess the modifications and submit comments.

What do the MU modifications entail?
According to MedCity News, one of the most significant modifications to the meaningful use standards was the alterations to the patient engagement measures found under the stage 2 requirements. When the CMS made the alterations to the rules, it was also aiming to change the EHR reporting to a 90-day period so that it would better align with the calendar year. It also changed the current reporting periods from 2015 to 2017.

The proposed ruling states that one patient within each practice has to use the patient portal to share, download and view their health information. This is a relief to many health professionals, as the current requirements say that providers have to have at least 5 percent of their patients rely on the portal to access medical data.

New ruling receives support
So far, the industry has shown its support for the proposed alterations to the meaningful use requirements. In fact, the American Medical Association recently expressed its approval of the new modifications in a press release. The organization has been pushing for increased flexibility for meaningful use standards to encourage more providers across the country to adopt and implement electronic health records, as these systems enhance practice workflow and improve patient care quality.

"Physicians want to use new technologies that help strengthen physician-patient relationships, improve health outcomes and make them more efficient," AMA President-elect Steven J. Stack, M.D., said in a public statement. "About 80 percent of physicians have already incorporated electronic health records into their practices, but they have faced significant barriers in participating in the Meaningful Use program and many are receiving penalties despite their investments in EHRs. We believe CMS' proposal offers common sense solutions that, if finalized quickly, will help more physicians use EHRs in a truly meaningful way while supporting patient engagement."

In addition to backing the new ruling, the AMA has also provided advice for enhancing attestation to meaningful use. The organization proposed that the CMS modify the overall structure of the testings, as many providers and hospitals that have tried and failed to adhere to meaningful use showed positive outcomes, but were heavily penalized.

Enhancing patient engagement
Patients should have access to messaging features within their patient portals so that they can securely reach out to their physicians with questions and concerns if necessary. While providers should try to encourage their patients to take advantage of these tools, Stack noted that certain circumstances or situations may arise for many health professionals that inhibit their patients' ability to view their health data electronically. For example, if providers serve patients in a low-income area, patients may not have access to tools like the Internet or computers at home.

The AMA is hoping to begin working with physician groups to enhance patient education on how to use electronics to access their medical data. It has already updated its website with suggestions for health professionals attempting to further engage their patients.

The proposed ruling is expected to receive further support from the industry, as the modifications would give health professionals much-needed flexibility when attesting to the meaningful use requirements.