As uncertainty swirls around health IT policies, CIOs should maintain focus on value-based care

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Whether or not the Congress votes for the GOP's ACA replacement bill, health IT leaders should continue to build systems that focus on value-based care and population health.

Acknowledging the tremendous regulatory uncertainty surrounding the healthcare industry, especially when it comes to health information technology, the CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) said IT executives must focus on systems that support population health and value-based care.

Based on Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s previous comments on the burdens of health IT regulations on physicians, the agency may ultimately ease enforcement of Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and Meaningful Use State 3, BIDMC CIO John Halamka, M.D., said in a webinar hosted by healthsystemCIO.

However, even if the new administration pulls back on existing health IT regulations, it won’t halt the transition towards value-based care.

RELATED: Donald Trump’s latest government picks continue hints of health technology regulatory relief

“Yes, individual policies will change, and with the appointment of John Fleming you might see MACRA and MIPS deferred a bit or Meaningful Use Stage 3 eliminated, but it’s still not going to change the need to do value-based-purchasing or move away from the current paradigm of focusing on volume,” Halamka said, noting that 80% of patient volume at BIDMC is currently tied to value-based purchasing agreements following a push from local payers.

Halamka also touched on two topics rife with uncertainty: The GOP’s ACA repeal and replace bill that is scheduled for a vote on Friday afternoon following Thursday’s delay, along with the appointment of John Fleming as deputy assistant secretary for health technology at HHS. The latter has raised questions about the future of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC).

RELATED: Former Louisiana representative tapped for health IT post at HHS, raising questions about ONC reorganization

Based on his discussions with representatives at ONC and HHS, Halamka said there is even internal confusion over the role that Fleming will play, whether there are additional health IT appointments coming or whether the administration will pull funding from ONC.

“It’s a little unclear what the role of ONC will be,” he said.

Perhaps even less clear is the fate of the American Health Care Act and the impact it will have on health IT. If the bill makes it through a contentious House vote and slogs through the uphill battle likely to emerge in the Senate, CIOs might see a trickle-down impact as Medicaid funding evaporates and hospitals are forced to operate on increasingly tighter budgets.

Health IT leaders have previously voiced mixed opinions to FierceHealthcare about a potential repeal of the ACA, although some say it would impact hospital margins that are already razor thin.

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