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Some good news for physicians is on the horizon: CMS announced Monday that Medicare’s Meaningful Use program would be coming to an end in 2016. As exciting as this update may be, the move towards a different approach is already in the works.
Medicare’s Meaningful Use is based on an incentive type program where physicians receive bonuses and penalties based on their usage of EHR technology. The program was implemented to encourage providers to start using EHR technology in a more ‘meaningful’ way by prescribing medications electronically, implementing drug allergy alerts, and communicating with patients electronically.
While the potential benefits of this program seem obvious, it had some adverse effects on providers and patient care. Physicians found the requirements of the program to be oppressive and unnecessary. Instead of putting emphasis on providing great care for customers, physicians have been forced to focus on following strict guidelines and benchmarks for their use of technology and integrating it into their day-to-day care.
The end of the Meaningful Use program was in response to opposition to the strict program guidelines. Now, CMS is working to move away from rewarding physicians and providers for the consistent use of EHR technology and towards improving patient care and positive patient outcomes. This new approach will in turn provide physicians with the tools and accessibility to create their own unique healthcare goals while customizing the technology to their needs. It’s a shift from adopting technology to actually developing it to better suit everyone involved. This does not mean an end of healthcare technology, but instead will enable technology programs to grow and build around an individual practice’s needs. This type of program removes the stress of adhering to stringent technology guidelines and places the patient’s and physician’s needs first. The move away from an incentive and reward based program will also help level the playing field for startup companies and new businesses. It will be designed to support physicians and their practices without distracting them from their healthcare goals.
Generally, Critical Access and Short Term Acute Care hospitals are eligible for the Medicare meaningful use program. The chart below shows the number of each type of hospital that has achieved the different stages of meaningful use. Of the 3,990 currently open Short Term Acute Care hospitals, 1,812 have achieved Stage 1 and 1,367 have achieved Stage 2. Of the 1,332 Critical Access hospitals, 753 have achieved Stage 1 and 458 have achieved Stage 2. The number of short term acute care hospitals that have not achieved any stage of meaningful use is not as high as the data makes it appear, as some of these hospitals report under a parent hospital.
The new program is still in development and it is still unclear exactly what it will entail but physicians and other healthcare providers are likely to find it a significant improvement from the original Meaningful Use program. As 2016 progresses CMS will surely provide more defined outlines for what is to be expected out of this new program implementation that will replace Meaningful Use.
Definitive Healthcare has the most up-to-date, comprehensive and integrated data on hospitals, physicians and other healthcare providers. Our hospital database tracks nearly 7,600 US hospitals and includes data on meaningful use implementation as well as EHR records and other technology utilized. New meaningful use program data will be added to the Definitive database as soon as it is made available by CMS.