The U.S. Congress may step in to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) electronic health record (EHR) meaningful use program, with both chambers taking action on the third and final stage of the program.
Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., introduced her Further Flexibility in HIT Reporting and Advancing Interoperability Act (Flex IT 2 Act), which would provide more flexibility in the meaningful use program and ensure EHR systems address interoperability challenges. The bill also would pause Stage 3 rulemaking to align it with technology advancements and the new merit-based incentive payment system, which will combine current quality programs.
“This important bill addresses many of the fundamental shortcomings in government regulations that have made many EHR systems very difficult to use,” AMA President Steven J. Stack, MD, said in a statement. “We heard loud and clear from physicians at the AMA’s first-ever town hall meeting on EHRs and the Meaningful Use program that the systems they use are cumbersome, poorly designed and unable to ‘talk’ to each other thereby preventing necessary transmission of patient medical information.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chair of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee (HELP), last week asked U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell to consider a delay in the release of the final rule on Stage 3.
Physicians ramp up calls for changes to program
The action in Congress comes just days after the AMA’s town hall meeting on EHRs and the meaningful use program, held with the Medical Association of Georgia. About 50 Atlanta-area physicians attended the event last week, which was live-streamed to about 500 registrants. Physicians discussed their everyday challenges with EHRs and burdensome government regulations that detract from patient care.
One physician at the event, Albert Johary, MD, who practices internal medicine in an Atlanta suburb, is in his fourth year of meaningful use. He said the program has slowed down productivity in his practice by about 25-30 percent.
“There are so many more things that you have to report on that I don’t think really add to patient care,” Dr. Johary said. “I’m trying to work with it. I think meaningful use is not necessarily a bad thing. But I don’t think [patients] have an idea what we’re going through. To give them a copy of their note, it’s not just printing it … there are four or five steps just to give somebody a copy of their note.”
At the event, Dr. Stack asked physicians to contact their members of Congress and ask them to halt Stage 3 of meaningful use until the program is fixed. The AMA has been calling for CMS to stop Stage 3 to assess how changes to earlier stages of the program will affect physician participation and success.
Visit breaktheredtape.org to watch the town hall meeting, share your stories about EHRs and meaningful use, and contact your members of Congress.
“This is an opportunity for us to speak directly with families and answer any questions they may have,” says Nickert. “But, to accommodate everyone, we encourage families to schedule their appointments with us sooner rather than later.”
The new rules apply to non-medical waivers, or those requested based on religious, philosophical or other objections to receiving required vaccines. Waivers are only reviewed at the grade levels and conditions specified above. The new rules do not change the existing process for children who have a medical reason for not receiving a vaccine (a medical contraindication or precaution).
LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has released the Practices to Reduce Infant Mortality through Equity (PRIME): Guide for Public Health Professionals. This is an informational resource for transforming public health through equity education and action.
“Achieving health equity for all residents is a goal of public health work within Michigan and across the country,” said Sue Moran, deputy director for the Public Health Administration at MDHHS. “This guide provides valuable strategies for developing a training model and resources that promote the understanding of the root causes of health inequities, as well as methods for creating changes in policy going forward.”
Health disparities are the metric used to measure progress toward ensuring that all residents have a fair opportunity to reach their potential. In Michigan, black and white infants died at a rate of 13.1 and 5.7 respectively in 2013, and these gaps in infant mortality rates between whites and blacks and whites and American Indians have persisted for decades.
The PRIME guide includes methods used by the department since 2010 to create a public health training model. These methods include consideration of the overall goals and design of the training components used, a description of specific content and concepts covered, the processes used, a description of the evaluation tools, lessons learned, and copies of existing tools and resources about health equity.
Additionally, the primary focus of PRIME has been to assist practitioners in the maternal child health arena, however, this guide will be a valuable resource for state and local public health systems interested in addressing racial and ethnic inequities related to other health outcomes.
The PRIME initiative is led by the Bureau of Maternal and Child Health within the department and a steering team that includes internal partners from the Health Disparities Reduction and Minority Health Section and the Lifecourse Epidemiology and Genomics Division of MDHHS. External partners that assisted with the development of this guide include the University of Michigan School of Public Health, Vanderbilt University, Michigan Public Health Institute, Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan, Ingham County Health Department, and Wayne County Department of Public Health.
To view the full report and accompanying documents, visit www.michigan.gov/dchprime. The PRIME initiative and publications were supported through a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
|Payment adjustments for eligible professionals that did not successfully participate in the Medicare EHR Incentive Program in 2014 will begin on January 1, 2016. Medicare eligible professionals can avoid the 2016 payment adjustment by taking action by July 1 and applying for a 2016 hardship exception.
The hardship exception applications and instructions for an individual and for multiple Medicare eligible professionals are available on the EHR Incentive Programs website, and outline the specific types of circumstances that CMS considers to be barriers to achieving meaningful use, and how to apply.
To file a hardship exception, you must:
You do not need to submit a hardship application if you:
Apply by July 1
As a reminder, the application must be submitted electronically or postmarked no later than 11:59 p.m. ET on July 1, 2015 to be considered.
If approved, the exception is valid for the 2016 payment adjustment only. If you intend to claim a hardship exception for a subsequent payment adjustment year, a new application must be submitted for the appropriate year.
In addition, providers who are not considered eligible professionals under the Medicare program are not subject to payment adjustments and do not need to submit an application. Those types of providers include:
Want more information about the EHR Incentive Programs?
Visit the EHR Incentive Programs website for the latest news and updates on the programs.