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Meaningful Use Program 'Effectively Over,' Says CMS Head

 |  By  
   January 13, 2016

MU will be "replaced with something better," says Andy Slavitt. Reaction from healthcare CIOs is largely one of relief.

For the first time, the leader of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has said publicly that the agency "has the opportunity" to sunset the meaningful use program in 2016.

Andy Slavitt, acting administrator of CMS, made his remarks Tuesday at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco. Slavitt's full remarks were then posted on the CMS blog, and summarized in a series of tweets.

Andy Slavitt

"As any physician will tell you, physician burden and frustration levels are real," Slavitt said. "Programs designed to improve often distract. Done poorly, measures are divorced from how physicians practice and add to the cynicism that people who build these programs just don't get it.

"The Meaningful Use program as it has existed, will now be effectively over and replaced with something better."

Slavitt credited feedback and collaboration with front-line physicians and the American Medical Association in moving CMS "from rewarding providers for the use of technology and toward the outcome they achieve with their patients."

Meaningful Use 'Bombshell' Leaves Nary a Mark

One way to aid this, he said, is by leveling the technology playing field for start-ups and new entrants. "We are requiring open APIs in order [that] the physician desktop can be opened up and move away from the lock that early EHR decisions placed on physician organizations. [That will] allow apps, analytic tools, and connected technologies to get data in and out of an EHR securely."

In addition, Slavitt said, "providers will be able to customize their goals so tech companies can build around the individual practice needs, not the needs of the government. Technology must be user-centered and support physicians, not distract them."

Slavitt highlighted recently passed bipartisan legislation as being "squarely on our punch list." The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) "brings pay-for-value into the mainstream through something called the merit-based incentive program, which compels us to measure physicians on four categories: quality, cost, the use of technology, and practice improvement."

CIO Reaction
Reaction from healthcare CIOs to Slavitt's announcement is largely one of relief.

"I have been an advocate for claiming victory for meaningful use and stopping the program," says Marc Probst, CIO of Intermountain Healthcare. "It doesn't seem to be adding value."

Probst expressed skepticism that CMS can simply halt the meaningful use program. "It's going to be a little more difficult to unravel than just staying we're stopping and moving over to MACRA or whatever."

Another CIO cites a recent precedent for CMS to simply stop enforcing the provisions of such regulations.

Scott Mace is the former senior technology editor for HealthLeaders Media. He is now the senior editor, custom content at H3.Group.

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