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D.C. Report: Coalition Highlights MU Certification, Regulatory Complexity,Spotlight on Interoperability at Government HIT Week

June 21, 2011
by Sharon Canner, Sr. Director of Advocacy
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Sharon Canner, Sr. Director of Advocacy Programs, CHIME

Cross-industry Coalition Highlights MU Certification and Regulatory Complexity in Letter to HHS
During a meeting with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at HIMSS11 in February, she asked a group of health IT stakeholders, “Short of regulatory or legislative change, what are the top five solutions the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) can implement to ensure greater success in meeting meaningful use Stage 1 for EPs [eligible providers] and EHs [eligible hospitals]?” In a recent letter to Sebelius, Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information head Farzad Mostashari and CMS Administrator Donald Berwick, and the Cross-industry Coalition answered by spotlighting five key areas: (1) Reduce Regulatory Complexity; (2) Clarify Certification and Site Certification Processes; (3) Address Providers’ Meaningful Use Resource Requirements; (4) Clarify and Improve Registration, Attestation, and Compliance Processes; (5) Evaluate Regulatory Timeline. In addressing the need for a “single source of truth,” the Coalition said, “Given the transformative nature of the incentive programs and associated funding and legal obligations, the healthcare community needs authoritative, timely, unambiguous, clear information, and resources that address the policy and operational implications for EPs and EHs.” At the same time, the letter commended the Department, in particularly CMS and ONC, for its diligence in operationalizing the incentive programs. The Coalition that includes the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), the American Hospital Association (AHA), and four other groups, also stressed a “growing level of confusion and frustration regarding elements of the certification process,” due to an increasing amount of information dissemination that tends to get muddled over time. To read the entire letter, click here (.pdf). Also see the adjoining presentation (.ppt) that proposes solutions to the identified problem areas.

ONC Highlights Interoperability at Government Health IT Week
During this year’s Government Health IT (GHIT) Conference in Washington, the ONC participated in an “interoperability showcase” similar to the HIMSS11 demonstration where government and private sector entities displayed their ability to share information electronically. At the GHIT showcase this week, the Department of Veterans Affairs and Mountain States Health Alliance securely exchanged information using Direct Project standards and protocols by sending a referral for mammography from a VA medical center to a clinic with MSHA, and then the clinic replied with a text-based report. To demonstrate the Nationwide Health Information Network (NwHIN), requests to support disability determinations were transmitted from the Social Security Administration to MedVirginia based on a patient’s authorization to release information. This process was performed seamlessly and without any human intervention. According to a blog by the director of ONC's office of interoperability and standards, Doug Fridsma, M.D., another interesting demonstration displayed the Electronic Submission of Medical Documentation (esMD) pilot. “This pilot,” he said, “will allow medical providers to send unstructured medical documentation (PDF) through a NwHIN Exchange gateway to selected Medicare or Medicaid review contractors looking for improper payments.”

Pressure Mounts for White House to Counter Ryan Medicare Plan
Republican members in the Senate and House, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) circulated a letter (.pdf) this week asking the president to submit a plan to address Medicare’s looming insolvency. This letter joins others sent by both the House Budget Committee and the Senate Budget Committee urging similar action. The letters cite a provision in the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act that require executive action to address funding gaps after the Medicare Trustees issue a funding warning. Also on the Medicare front, The Hill reports that Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI1) indicated he is “open to reforming Medicare in a way that would still leave traditional fee-for-service Medicare as an option for future seniors.” Rep. Ryan said, “We didn’t decide not to keep [traditional Medicare] as an option,” he said of his budget plan. “When you write a budget resolution, it’s the macro structure of an idea, not the specifics.”

 

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