Health IT, Policy

As Meaningful Use dies, we wait for #somethingbetter

Acting CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt has shaken the health IT universe this week.

right to die

They’re already writing the obituaries for Meaningful Use.

Tuesday, the day after acting CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt declared at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference that Meaningful Use “will now be effectively over and replaced with something better,” the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services doubled down by posting Slavitt’s entire remarks online.

Those of us not at JPM in San Francisco now know Slavitt said this:

For one, the focus will move away from rewarding providers for the use of technology and towards the outcome they achieve with their patients.

Second, providers will be able to customize their goals so tech companies can build around the individual practice needs, not the needs of the government. Technology must be user-centered and support physicians, not distract them.

Third, one way to aid this is by leveling the technology playing field for start-ups and new entrants. We are requiring open APIs in order to the physician desktop can be opened up and move away from the lock that early EHR decisions placed on physician organizations so that allow apps, analytic tools, and connected technologies to get data in and out of an EHR securely.

And finally, we are deadly serious about interoperability. We will begin initiatives in collaboration with physicians and consumers toward pointing technology to fill critical use cases like closing referral loops and engaging a patient in their care. And technology companies that look for ways to practice “data blocking” in opposition to new regulations will find that it won’t be tolerated.

All that the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has said about Meaningful Use this week is to retweet Slavitt.

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It’s safe to say no higher-ups in Washington will be making Slavitt walk it back anytime soon.

Meanwhile, plenty in the private sector, including MedCitizens contributor Dr. John Halamka, on behalf of his employer, Partners HealthCare, and 30 other health systems, have been cheering the impending demise of MU.

The American Medical Association, a longtime critic of Meaningful Use — not to mention pretty much every other policy that makes physicians do anything differently — was practically ecstatic.

“Administrator Slavitt acknowledged the frustration of physicians attempting to comply with the Meaningful Use regulations and pledged to work collaboratively with physicians to replace the program with a more effective alternative,” AMA CEO and Executive Vice President Dr. James L. Madara said.

Madara then went overboard with the love fest for Slavitt, who formerly ran the Optum analytics division of known physician nemesis UnitedHealth Group:

His leadership is a model for how Washington should work. He listened to working physicians who said the meaningful use program made them choose between following byzantine technological requirements and spending more time with their patients. This is a win for patients, physicians and common sense.

(Get a room, gentlemen.)

Thursday, the blog of policy journal Health Affairs reposted comments the American College of Physicians made last month, calling on CMS to “completely reconceptualize the program.”

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, representing CIOs, offered a measured opinion rather than dancing on the grave of MU. “We are encouraged that Acting Administrator Slavitt and CMS are open to improving the Meaningful Use program. It is important that we maintain momentum in digitizing healthcare. Robust IT systems are a cornerstone for achieving the Triple Aim — better population health, an improved patient experience and lower costs,” CHIME President and CEO Russell Branzell said in a statement.

And now we wait for CMS to provide additional details about what “something better” will mean. (Hey, let’s start tweeting ideas with the hashtag #somethingbetter!)

Meantime, Slavitt seems to be enjoying playing it coy. Thursday, he “liked” this tongue-in-cheek tweet from MedCity News editor Chris Seper.

Photo: Flickr user Gavin Clarke