CMS' Robert Tagalicod hints at Meaningful Use 'relief' announcement at HIMSS

Federal officials are loath to make public promises about easing the burden of health IT regulations and programs--let alone to a room full of CIOs. But a glimmer of hope emerged during a keynote session yesterday's College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) CIO Forum in Orlando preceding HIMSS14.

>> RELATED: National provider orgs 'plead' with HHS for Meaningful Use extension

On Thursday--the final day of the 2014 HIMSS conference that gets underway in Orlando today--there will be an announcement about Meaningful Use "under the rubric of relief," said Robert Tagalicod (pictured right), director of the office of e-health standards and services at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Karen DeSalvo, M.D., the new national coordinator for Health IT, and Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of health and human services, are set to speak that morning. 

For the rest of the Q&A style session, however, the speakers followed the usual script.

CHIME CIO Russell Branzell, who led the discussion, said that organizations are struggling to implement a confluence of demanding initiatives, including ICD-10 and Meaningful Use, and pointed out that CHIME has been asking--"very nicely"--for greater flexibility.  

Tagalicod and Jacob Reider, M.D., chief medical officer at the office of the national coordinator, responded with the usual "we're listening" and "we've heard the message" and "we understand the burden" lines.

Aside from the hint at some kind of Meaningful Use news later this week, they held a firm line on HHS' efforts to improve quality and control costs, including moving forward with ICD-10 implementation.

"We're not in the position to do additional [ICD-10] delays," Tagalicod said. Instead, relief would only come in the form of tweaks to the programs--not massive overhauls--and how regulations are interpreted. "As we listen to folks, we talk about where there is latitude under statute or by legislation," he said.                                   

Tagalicod and Reider also responded to questions from Branzell and the audience about quality reporting, vendor readiness, user-centered design, ONC's proposed 2015 EHR certification criteria, Meaningful Use attestation audits and the NIST cybersecurity framework, although with just 40 minutes to the session, there were no deep dives.

And what's next the next focus of federal HIT initiatives? "eHealth, eHealth, eHealth," Tagalicod said. That includes, of course, more listening to concerns about regulatory and other burdens.

Delivery reform will also be a big focus, Reider said, adding that reforming the fee-for-service system is not possible without health IT. 

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