EMR users given preference in CMS payment bundling program

The new voluntary bundling demonstration project revealed last week by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' Innovation Center seeks to incentivize hospitals, physicians and others who collaborate on patient care. But consider carefully who you choose to partner with if you're going to file an application to participate: your chances of being accepted are more favorable if you're using electronic medical records.     

The "Bundled Payments for Care Improvement Initiative," unveiled August 23, is seeking applications for four broadly defined models of care.  The Initiative will give providers "great flexibility in selecting conditions to bundle, developing the healthcare delivery structure, and determining how payments will be allocated among participating providers," the Center says in its press release. 

But that flexibility doesn't necessarily extend to providers' mode of operations. CMS clearly favors providers who are using health IT tools, such as EMRs.

According to the Center's Request for Application, "CMS will give preference to applicants who are meaningful users of HIT resources or who have a minimum of 50 percent of providers meeting the standards of meaningful use. This includes the ability to electronically exchange patient summary records with relevant providers as necessary to ensure care coordination, medication reconciliation and prevention of unnecessary readmissions." This preference applies to all four models of care.

This preference is not necessarily surprising, considering CMS' high priority to move the industry into EMR adoption.  But it may be a rude awakening for providers who have partnered with other providers to participate in the Bundled Payments Initiative, only to find that the partnership's lack of sufficient HIT makes their application less likely to make the cut.

To learn more:
- here's the CMS press release
- here's the Request for Application (.pdf)
- read this summary from the law firm Krieg Devault