MACRA, MIPS and more: What healthcare advocates see for the year ahead

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Lobbyists and healthcare advocates spoke about where they see the industry going in the year to come, especially when it comes to health IT policy.

With an election year looming, questions remain about how many health IT programs and policies the government will tackle this year, panelist speaking at the eHealth Initiative's annual conference in the District of Columbia noted.

[More from the conference: Karen DeSalvo talks about data-enabled public health.]

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However, they do see actions on Capitol Hill making a difference for healthcare this year, especially when it comes to programs like the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA).

Here's what they see for 2016:

Erin Mackay, associate director of the National Partnership for Women and Families

"We're hoping to see continued focus on policies to enhance not only patient access to health data, but also making sure that data is useful," Mackay said at the event.

MACRA and MIPS also will play a major role. MIPS "is a huge bucket of activities that is yet to be defined but is likely to include a lot of HIT practices."

Education on policies surrounding patient access to information also will be very important, she added. There's a need for policy education on both the patient and provider sides of the aisle, she said.

Mark Segal, Ph.D., vice president of government and industry affairs at GE Healthcare IT

Segal agreed that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' proposed regulations--"the alphabet soup," as he called them--will gain the most attention this year, including MACRA, MIPS and Alternative Payment Models.

The MACRA rule "not only really is going to be an important pivot on how Medicare approaches payment delivery, but it's also likely to have proposed changes for the Meaningful Use program," he said at the event. "I think it will effect health IT at both macro and mirco levels."

In addition, Segal said he sees the House and Senate continuing to push legislation on interoperability, patient safety and telemedicine.

Kristen O'Brien, Washington counsel for the American Medical Association

In her comments, O'Brien also addressed the importance of MIPS. "That is the big regulation we're watching this entire year," she said.

Other things she sees Congress looking to tackle before November include telemedicine, interoperability and, to an extent, privacy and security. President Barack Obama's Precision Medicine Initiative also should get a good deal of attention, she added. "[Obama's] really going to be promoting that this year."

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