CMS: IT, data sharing foundational to providing quality care under MACRA

Andy Slavitt
Andy Slavitt

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ new final rule implementing the Quality Payment Program (QPP), established by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), relies heavily on health IT and electronic health records--and provides an opportunity for EHR vendors to step up to the plate to support physicians.

In a press call held Oct. 14, CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt explained that the rule is focused on health IT and the exchange of electronic information among providers and patients. “Now, the burden needs to shift to technology companies to get this done," he said.

He also noted that this it’s a “vital role and vital opportunity” for health IT and that the technology companies are “encouraged” to support physicians; the shift, Slavitt said, is moving away from government regulation and “customer needs" must take precedence.

The QPP provides two programs for physicians: one on advanced alternative payment models and the other the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System, (MIPS). Both programs require the use of certified EHR technology and interoperability.

Under MIPS, participants will be measured on quality, resource use, clinical practice improvements and meaningful use of certified EHR technology, now referred to as “advancing care information.”  

National Coordinator for Health IT Vindell Washington said on the call that health IT is "foundational to providing quality of care” which is why the rule is “laser focused” on data sharing. For instance, as explained in a fact sheet, the objectives in the advancing care information performance category of MIPS--down to five from the 11 in the proposed rule and from the 18 in Stage 3 of Meaningful Use--pertain to:

  • Closing the referral loop, so that clinicians not only send electronic information, but also receive it, query for it and incorporate it into the record
  • Sharing and obtaining information from multiple settings through secure electronic messaging and health information exchange, as well as incorporating patient generated data
  • Focusing on outcome related goals, such as care coordination and reporting to registries

Clinicians can also obtain bonus scoring in the quality performance and improvement activities with their use of health IT.

However, the use of CEHRT itself is not the goal. Meaningful Use is being relegated to a “supporting” role, “not the main event,” Slavitt noted.