CMS official: We might revisit Meaningful Use patient engagement rules

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will reconsider its requirements for patient engagement in Meaningful Use Stage 2 if complying proves too onerous for care providers, according to an article at Health Data Management.

During a question-and-answer session at the Medical Group Management Association Conference in San Antonio this week, Travis Broome, a health insurance specialist at CMS, suggested that the requirements aren't set in stone.

The rules that require 5 percent of patients to communicate with physicians online and to access their health records through a portal have been controversial because that's something widely considered to be outside a provider's control.

"We wanted to make the bar as low as possible, but uphold it principally," Broome said of the 5 percent threshold, though he acknowledged that to do so, practices will have to "push their use" of personal health records.

At a session at the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives' fall forum earlier this month, Broome and Steven Posnack, director of the federal policy division for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, talked about the flexibility of the Meaningful Use program.

"One of the things we did in response to everyone's comments for this recent rulemaking was to tilt the regulatory framework that we originally proposed to make it a little more dynamic and to make it more flexible for all of you out there that are implementing different certified technologies," Posnack said.

A pilot program in Billings, Mont., is among the latest efforts to give patients online access to their medical records as part of ONC's Consumer Innovation Challenge.

Though surveys have found patients say they want to manage their health records, especially if they control access, they tend to lose interest when it comes to actually doing so. Patients especially are concerned about the privacy and security of PHRs.

Beyond portals, hospitals are implementing an array of patient-experience initiatives as Medicare, beginning this month, makes patient-satisfaction scores 30 percent of the performances measures for driving payment.

As Jeremy Tucker, medical director of MedStar St. Mary's Hospital in Leonardtown, Md., told FieceHealthcare,  better patient experience comes from cultural change across all levels of the organization. "If the reason for doing patient experience is simply to get a better score on a test, you will fail," he said. "It only takes one cold meal tray or a roll of the eyes by a staff member to derail the patient experience."

To learn more:
- read the Health Data Management article