Hurdles remain with CMS bridge to connect MU-ineligible providers

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have provided a "creative" way to connect the electronic and remaining paper worlds in healthcare, Julia Adler-Milstein notes in a rundown of a federal funding program announced earlier this year.

Adler-Milstein, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Information, equates the divide to a road in which parts are paved--providers that have electronic systems--and parts are unpaved among long-term care facilities, mental and behavioral health providers and others who were ineligible for Meaningful Use incentive payments, in a new Health Affairs Blog post. The result is a bumpy ride in which errors often occur, she says.

With that in mind, she points out that CMS, in late March, made federal matching funds available to states that find ways to connect ineligible providers to health information exchanges to help said providers meet Meaningful Use requirements.

The 90 percent federal match, however, can be used only to connect the two camps, not to help ineligible providers who have struggled to digitize without the federal help that doctors and hospitals received, Adler-Milstein notes. Funding cannot be used to buy digital systems for ineligible providers or to boost their capabilities, and can only be used to connect with eligible providers to enhance care management as value-based payment plans go into effect, she writes.

The plan poses issues for states, according to Adler-Milstein, such as that ineligible providers often have rudimentary systems, if anything at all, to connect to, with many states lacking robust HIEs. Funding can be used to start an HIE, but not for ongoing operations.

It's not clear how much money will be available and it likely won't be enough, she says. What's more, the rapidly changing policy landscape makes it tricky to determine the best way to go.

To learn more:
- here's the blog post

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