Verma wants docs to use EHRs to report MIPS progress so they 'don't have to lift a finger'

Seema Verma interviewed by Steve Forbes at Forbes Healthcare Summit
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma laid out a vision for making Merit-based Incentive Payment System reporting completely electronic. (Forbes/GettyImages)

BALTIMORE—The Trump administration wants to make it easier for doctors to report quality progress on the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) by moving to a completely electronic reporting system.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma laid out her vision for a completely electronic system for MIPS during a speech Tuesday at the CMS Quality Conference in Baltimore. She said that using electronic health records (EHRs) to report quality progress can ease providers’ administrative burden, but full implementation could take several years.

"Imagine a world in which clinicians don’t have to lift a finger—where quality measures can be seamlessly transmitted from their EHRs," Verma said during her speech. 

She told reporters after the speech that now providers have to perform “complex measurements and calculations and then turn that stuff into us. We are hoping to move to a system where it can just come from the EHR and that way there is not much that [providers] have to do.”

CMS aims to use Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource (FHIR)-based standards to exchange information via application programming interfaces (APIs).

“FHIR allows clinicians to submit quality information through digital sources once for many uses,” Verma said. “This will pave the way for stakeholders to submit data to a centralized submission system.”

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A proposed rule from the Office of the National Coordinator on Health IT would also require the use of FHIR by providers and increase data that would be made available through APIs.

The provider data could also be combined with other data on claims, inspections or surveys to give CMS a robust quality profile, Verma said.

“In an era of artificial intelligence, this might mean more easily identifying providers delivering high-quality care and those that need interventions,” she said during her speech.

Verma told FierceHealthcare that it could take several years to fully move the system to electronic. While some quality measures under MIPS are electronic, others are not. But the agency is now evaluating any new measures to see whether they can be electronic.

“We are sort of setting the standards for how something becomes a quality metric,” she said. “It almost has to pass a threshold that it doesn’t require additional provider burden.”

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The push to an electronic system comes ahead of a major deadline for MIPS.

Starting in 2021, doctors participating in MIPS will be able to pick from a set of measures relating to their specialty or the type of patients they regularly treat. Currently, a provider has to look through hundreds of different quality measures to pick what they want to be measured by.

“I heard from doctors across the nation saying, 'look, this is taking me hours and I don’t even understand it,'” Verma told reporters.

Now, CMS is consolidating those measurements and putting them into sets. For example, if a physician treats a high amount of diabetic patients there is a measure set for just diabetes.

“It eliminates a lot of their work,” Verma said.