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AMA Releases Online Tools to Help Doctors Prepare for MACRA

October 5, 2016
by Heather Landi
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The Chicago-based American Medical Association has developed several online tools to assist physicians with preparing for and transitioning to pending Medicare payment and delivery changes under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA).

“MACRA represents the most significant change to Medicare’s physician payment system in a generation, and the AMA is working to help physicians navigate this change and make sure they are prepared for it,” AMA president Andrew Gurman, M.D., said during a conference call with healthcare industry press Oct. 5th.

The new online resources include a payment model evaluator tool, practice-improvement strategies, MACRA-focused podcasts to provide information and guidance during upcoming Medicare changes.

In April 2015, the U.S. Senate passed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA). In April 2016, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), also known as a “proposed rule,” which sets forth proposed implementation details for MACRA, which CMS has labeled the Quality Payment Program, which includes two paths—the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and Alternative Payment Models (APMs). In September, CMS announced it will allow physicians to “pick their pace” of participation for the first performance period under MACRA that begins Jan. 1, 2017.

“AMA is working to help physicians navigate this change, and make sure they are prepared for it. So, today AMA is unveiling a number of online tools to help physicians adapt to changes and give them the best chance to be successful in the new payment framework,” Gurman said.

“We know there are challenges under the new system, but the recent announcement of the ‘Pick Your Pace’ reporting options indicates not only that CMS is responsive to the AMA’s advocacy on behalf of physicians, but that it is working to give physicians a fair chance to be successful in the new payment framework,” Gurman said.

As a resource, AMA is releasing its AMA Payment Model Evaluator as an online, interactive tool offering initial assessments to physicians so they can determine how their practices will be impacted by MACRA. Gurman said the tool will give physicians and their staff a brief assessment, as well as relevant educational and actionable resources. “Once physicians and medical practice administrators fill out the online questionnaire, they will receive guidance for participating in the MACRA payment model that is best for them,” he said, noting that the tool is free and open to all physicians and practice administrators. AMA plans to continually update the payment model evaluator tool to respond to regulatory changes and to keep practices up to date throughout the new payment and care delivery reform process.

In the AMA Steps Forward platform features are a collection of practice improvement strategies. That platform has 43 modules with a variety of tools to help physicians and practices. The modules focus on topics such as implementing team-based care, electronic health record (EHR) selection and implementation, preparing practices for value-based care and Quality Reporting and the importance of Qualified Clinical Data Registries (QCDRs). 

“Accurate and successful reporting on quality metrics is crucial to the new Medicare payment system, both in the current Physician Quality Reporting System program and under MACRA’s new Quality Payment Programs. Each STEPS Forward module focuses on a specific challenge and offers real-world solutions, steps for implementation, case studies, continuing medical education, and downloadable tools and resources,” Gurman said.

Gurman added, “Under the proposed rule, there are some Steps Forward modules that also would help fulfill physicians’ clinical practice improvement requirement under MIPS. Physicians also can get CMS credit for these modules.”

AMA also has launched a ReachMD podcast series titled Inside Medicare’s New Payment System. The five-episode podcast series will feature Andy Slavitt, CMS acting administrator, Gurman, AMA staff experts and others to help physicians be informed on upcoming Medicare changes.  

Gurman said the new online tools were developed based on market research focused on physicians, specifically smaller and medium-sized practices. “These tools were generated based on market research, talking to physicians to find out what they need,” he said.

The podcast series also can be accessed on the AMA website under the Medicare Payment Reform (MACRA) tab, under MACRA Resources.

Gurman said while the online tools are available to all physicians and not just AMA members, but physicians, and their practice administrators, will have to log-in to the site, by creating a user name and password, to access some of the tools.