By Wednesday evening, Apr. 27, the leaders of U.S. healthcare professional associations had begun making public statements regarding the announcement on Wednesday by federal healthcare officials that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is introducing a new program that will replace the meaningful use program under the HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) Act, for physicians participating in the Medicare program, with a new program, called Advancing Care Information (ACI). That new program was introduced on Wednesday as a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), under the terms of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA).
Andy Slavitt, Acting Administrator of CMS, Patrick Conway, M.D., Deputy Administrator for Innovation & Quality and Chief Medical Officer for the agency, Karen DeSalvo, M.D., National Coordinator for Health IT, and Kate Goodrich, M.D., Director of the Center for Clinical Standards and Quality at CMS, participated in two successive press conferences, with Slavitt and Conway participating in the first, and Slavitt, DeSalvo, and Goodrich participating in the second, and all those federal officials explaining the proposed new program.
The Chicago- and Washington, D.C.-based American Medical Association (AMA) expressed satisfaction with the announcement of the new program. In a statement released Wednesday evening, Steven J. Stack, M.D., the AMA’s president, said, “It is hard to overstate the significance of these proposed regulations for patients and physicians. When Congress overwhelmingly passed MACRA last year, lawmakers signaled that they wanted to transform Medicare by promoting flexibility and innovation in the delivery of care, changes that could lead to improved quality and better outcomes for patients.”
Dr. Stack then on to say that “Our initial review suggests that CMS has been listening to physicians’ concerns. In particular, it appears that CMS has made significant improvements by recasting the EHR [electronic health record] Meaningful Use program and by reducing quality reporting burdens.” In the statement, Stack also said that “The existing Medicare pay-for-performance programs are burdensome, meaningless and punitive. The new incentive system needs to be relevant to the real-world practice of medicine and establish meaningful links between payments and the quality of patient care, while reducing red tape,” he added, and stated that AMA leaders would be carefully reviewing the details of the proposal and would participate in providing to comments to CMS during the 60-day comment period.
Meanwhile, the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) released a statement made by Russell P. Branzell, the association’s president and CEO. “CHIME has long supported the goals of the federal Meaningful Use program to advance health IT solutions that increase efficiency and improve patient care,” Branzell began. “While the proposed regulations are largely focused on physicians, there are elements concerning data blocking that apply to hospitals and will be of significant interest to our members.”
Branzell went on to say that “We are encouraged that CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt said the agency will continue to meet with hospital officials to create alignment across health IT programs. We look forward to working with the administration to address critical issues impacting CHIME members, including adopting a 90-day reporting period and removing the pass-fail construct for attestation.”
And Jeffery Smith, vice president of public policy at the Bethesda, Md.-based American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA), said, “While there is a tremendous amount of detail yet to understand, AMIA applauds CMS proposals that address the “all or nothing” and threshold legacies of Meaningful Use. We also support the proposals that refocus requirements on those aspects of the program that are important, such as patient data access and patient engagement, care coordination and health information exchange. These changes will enable all stakeholders – providers and policymakers – to leverage program participation as a means to learn rather than simply grade.”