Lots of disappointment over new health care rules

Lots of disappointment over new health care rules

Not everyone is cheering a big change in health care rules that could affect you.

A wide range of groups ranging from politicians to healthcare experts are clashing over the Meaningful Use program over concerns about what it will mean for health records and patient care.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) runs the Meaningful Use program, and it recently released its final rules for Stage 3, which pertains to electronic health records, according to a MedPage Today report.

But politicians and medical organizations had asked for a delay, and many aren’t happy with the release of the final rules, which were part of a joint release that happened Tuesday by the CMS along with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

The rules are a big deal because they have to do with electronic health record systems, as well as Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive programs.

In a statement, CMS deputy administration Patrick Conway said that the organization has “a shared goal of electronic health records helping physicians, clinicians, and hospitals to deliver better care, smarter spending, and healthier people.”

The rules will apply from 2015 through 2017. Among the changes include a reduction in reporting objectives for eligible professionals, which went from 18 to just 10, and for hospitals it declined from 20 to nine. It will also move the reporting period for participants to the calendar year rather than do it by the fiscal year.

Some were not pleased with the new rules, with American Osteopathic Associate Vice President of Public Policy Laura Wooster saying she was disappointed that the timeline for Stage 3 wasn’t more aligned with the Medicaid and CHIP Reauthorization Act, according to an iHealthBeat report.

In the statement, Conway expounded on his intentions with the rule changes.

“We have a shared goal of electronic health records helping physicians, clinicians, and hospitals to deliver better care, smarter spending, and healthier people. We eliminated unnecessary requirements, simplified and increased flexibility for those that remain, and focused on interoperability, information exchange, and patient engagement. By 2018, these rules move us beyond the staged approach of ‘meaningful use’ and focus on broader delivery system reform,” Conway said. “Most importantly we are seeking additional public comments and plan for active engagement of stakeholders so we take time to get broad input on how to improve these programs over time.”

Karen DeSalvo, national coordinator for health IT, said in the statement that this rule “is a key step forward in our work with the private sector to realize the shared goal of making actionable electronic health information available when and where it matters most to transform care and improve health for the individual, community and larger population. It will bring us closer to a world in which health care providers and consumers can readily, safely and securely exchange electronic health information.”

Also in the statement, the organization insisted that the changes were made with the medical community in mind: “HHS heard from physicians and other providers about the challenges they face making this technology work well for their individual practices and for their patients. In recognition of these concerns, the regulations announced today make significant changes in current requirements. They will ease the reporting burden for providers, support interoperability, and improve patient outcomes.  Providers can choose the measures of progress that are most meaningful to their practice and have more time to implement changes to program requirements. Providers are encouraged to apply for hardship exceptions if they need to switch or have other technology difficulties with their EHR vendor. Additionally, the new rules give developers more time to create user-friendly technologies that give individuals easier access to their information so they can be engaged and empowered in their care.”

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