Managing Your Practice

Goodbye measures of data quantity, hello data quality measures of MACRA

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Meaningful Use, MACRA, eCQMs, and EHRs: Practice and payment survival in a data-centric world



Practicing clinical medicine is increasingly challenging. Besides the onslaught of new clinical information, we have credentialing, accreditation, certification, team-based care, and patient satisfaction that contribute to the complexity of current medical practice. At the heart of many of these challenges is the issue of accountability. Never has our work product as physicians been under such intense scrutiny as it is today.

To demonstrate proof of the care we have provided, we have enlisted a host of administrators, assistants, abstractors, and other helpers to decipher our work and demonstrate its value to professional organizations, boards, hospitals, insurers, and the government. They comb through our charts, decipher our handwriting and dictations, guesstimate our intentions, and sometimes devalue our care because we have not adequately documented what we have done. To solve this accountability problem, our government and the payer community have promoted the electronic health record (EHR) as the “single source of truth” for the care we provide.

This effort received a huge boost in 2009 with the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. HITECH authorized incentive payments through Medicare and Medicaid to health care providers that could demonstrate Meaningful Use (MU) of a certified EHR. This resulted in a boom in EHR purchases and installations.

By 2012, 71.8% of office-based physicians reported using some type of EHR system, up from 34.8% in 2007.1 In many respects this action was designed as a stimulus for the slow economy, but Congress also wanted some type of accountability that the money spent to subsidize EHR purchases was going to be well spent, and would hopefully have an impact on some of the serious health issues we face.

The initial stage of this MU program seemed to work out reasonably well. So, if a little is good, more must be better, right? Unfortunately, no. But, where did MU go wrong, and how is it being fixed? Contrary to popular belief, MU is not going away, it is being transformed. To help you navigate the tethered landscape of MU past and, more importantly, bring you up to speed on MU future (the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 [MACRA]) and your payment incentives in this data-centric world, we address MU transformation in this article.

Where Meaningful Use stage 2 went wrong
MU stage 2 turned out to significantly increase the documentation burden on health care professionals. In addition, one of the tragic unintended consequences was that all available EHR development resources by vendors went toward meeting MU data capture requirements rather than to improving the usability and efficiency of the EHRs. Neither result has been well received by health care professionals.

Stage 3 of MU is now in place. It is an attempt to simplify the requirements and focus on quality, safety, interoperability, and patient engagement. See “Meaningful Use stage 3 specifications”. The current progression of MU stages is depicted in TABLE 1.2

Meaningful Use stage 3 specifications

Objective 1: Protect patient health information. Protect electronic health information created or maintained by the Certified Electronic Health Record Technology (CEHRT) through the implementation of appropriate technical, administrative, and physical safeguards.

Objective 2: Electronic prescribing. Eligible providers (EPs) must generate and transmit permissible prescriptions electronically, and eligible hospitals must generate and transmit permissible discharge prescriptions electronically.

Objective 3: Clinical decision support. Implement clinical decision support interventions focused on improving performance on high-priority health conditions.

Objective 4: Computerized provider order entry. Use computerized provider order entry for medication, laboratory, and diagnostic imaging orders directly entered by any licensed health care professional, credentialed medical assistant, or a medical staff member credentialed and performing the equivalent duties of a credentialed medical assistant, who can enter orders into the medical record per state, local, and professional guidelines.

Objective 5: Patient electronic access to health information. The EP provides patients (or patient-authorized representatives) with timely electronic access to their health information and patient-specific education.

Objective 6: Coordination of care through patient engagement. Use the CEHRT to engage with patients or their authorized representatives about the patient's care.

Objective 7: Health information exchange. The EP provides a summary of care record when transitioning or referring their patient to another setting of care, receives or retrieves a summary of care record upon the receipt of a transition or referral or upon the first patient encounter with a new patient, and incorporates summary of care information from other providers into their EHR using the functions of CEHRT.

Objective 8: Public health and clinical data registry reporting. The EP is in active engagement with a public health agency or clinical data registry to submit electronic public health data in a meaningful way using certified EHR technology, except where prohibited, and in accordance with applicable law and practice.

1. Medicare and Medicaid Programs; Electronic Health Record Incentive Program-Stage 3. Federal Register website. Accessed March 19, 2016.


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