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CMS to End Meaningful Use in 2016

Capitol Hill Exit Only SignThe Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced this week that it will be ending the “meaningful use” EHR Incentive Program in 2016.

The announcement—delivered by CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt in a speech at a J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference on Tuesday—follows months of requests from physician and other health stakeholder groups to slow the program down and loosen its requirements.

CMS had announced stage 3 meaningful use guidelines in October which followed a series of proposed changes to the program, including payment adjustments and the creation of hardship exemptions.

In remarks at the J.P. Morgan conference and on Twitter, Slavitt said further specifics on exactly what will replace meaningful use will be forthcoming, though it will be tied to the implementation of Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) and include streamlining various quality reporting programs.

“The meaningful use program as it has existed will now be effectively over and replaced with something better,” Slavitt said, according to a transcript of his speech. “Since late last year we have been working side by side with physician organizations across many communities—including with great advocacy from the AMA—and have listened to the needs and concerns of many. We will be putting out the details on this next stage over the next few months, but I will give you themes guiding our implementation.”

One of those themes focuses on shifting away from rewarding providers for the use of technology and instead centers on achieving better outcomes. He said CMS wants to offer providers the ability to customize “their goals so tech companies can build around the individual practice needs, not the needs of the government,” Slavitt said.

According to Aaron Albright, director of media relations at CMS, Slavitt’s announcement is consistent with what CMS announced in the stage 3 final rule in October.

At that time, CMS stated that: “This rule moves us beyond the staged approach of ‘meaningful use’ by 2018 and helps us collectively move forward to a system based on the quality of care delivered, as opposed to quantity. We will use this feedback to inform future policy developments for the EHR Incentive Programs, as well as consider it during rulemaking to implement MACRA, which we expect to release in the spring of 2016 and other rulemaking as appropriate.”

What remains to be seen, however, is whether CMS will still penalize eligible providers for not meeting stage 1 meaningful use requirements, or whether eligible providers should even bother continuing to track their progress on the meaningful use measures for reporting this year. Albright declined to respond to those questions at press time.