AAFP asks CMS for Meaningful Use audit relief

Meaningful Use audits are becoming an increasing concern to family physicians and need to be addressed, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP).

AAPF's Board Chairman Reid Blackwelder, M.D., in an April 6 letter to Andy Slavitt, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said family physicians joined the Meaningful Use program with the "reasonable expectation" that the incentives would help offset the implementation costs and associated initial decrease in practice productivity when transitioning to electronic health records.

However, the Meaningful Use audits are creating unfair burdens on physicians, such as requiring documentation years after the fact and auditing individual physicians who, as employees of a practice, had turned over any incentive payments to their employer pursuant to their employment agreements.

The letter also decried the lack of clarity regarding the Meaningful Use documentation requirements, which made it difficult for physicians to comply, as well as the existing "zero tolerance" policy which undermines Meaningful Use since often it's simply lack of documentation, not the inability to meet the requirements, that is causing many physicians to fail the audits.

Interestingly, the AAFP also raised concern about the auditors themselves, pointing out that they require multiple follow up communication, often don't respond to physicians for weeks, and appear to be unfamiliar with healthcare or EHRs.

"If the government believes that a strong primary care foundation is the key to an improved and sustainable healthcare system, then we urge you to take these issues into account and provide immediate and increased relief to those who have acted responsibly and legally and had no intent to defraud or deceive by participating in the Meaningful Use program," the letter states.

CMS' audit contractor, Garden City, New York-based Figliozzi & Company has been auditing providers for Meaningful Use since 2012.  About 22 percent of eligible professionals have failed the audits, a much higher failure rate than that for hospitals. Meaningful Use audits can be particularly daunting because CMS has issued little guidance about the audit appeals process. To make matters worse, the Office of Inspector General has separately begun to Meaningful Use audits of providers.

To learn more:
- here's the letter