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6 Things Providers Need to Know About the Future of Meaningful Use

By: Nextech | January 20th, 2016

6 Things Providers Need to Know About the Future of Meaningful Use Blog Feature

When CMS Chief Andy Slavitt announced (via Twitter) earlier this month that Meaningful Use would be “effectively over,” I swear I could hear the collective sighs of relief and shouts of joy coming from thousands upon thousands of U.S. healthcare providers.  Not to be a killjoy, but please don’t start doling out the rapid-fire high fives just yet.  Slavitt’s entire tweet stated that “In 2016, MU as it has existed—with MACRA—will now be effectively over and replaced with something better.”150710_Slavitt_Quinn-1250x650.jpg

He may have jumped the gun a little bit, because the hard truth is that Meaningful Use is not over… not by a longshot.

I am sorry for once again being the bearer of less-than-pleasant news.  I do not enjoy raining on everyone’s parade, I promise.  However, I would rather our readers be accurately informed than lose out on incentives and payouts because they were given misleading information.  And I would definitely say Slavitt’s tweet was somewhat misleading.

Don’t get me wrong… Meaningful Use definitely is on its way out the door.  However, it still has a very long way to travel before it actually gets to that door, and it may take some time for it to step through the door (okay… I admit, in hindsight, that door metaphor may not have been the best way to go).

IThe CMS has even begun doing a bit of backpedaling on Slavitt’s rather bold twitter declaration.  Just yesterday, in fact, CMS Administrator and National Coordinator Karen DeSalvo posted an article on her blog (co-written with Slavitt) that clarified his Twitter statement and explained that they are still in the process of “work[ing] through a transition from the staged Meaningful Use phase to the new program as it will look under MACRA.”

For right now, here is what you need to know about what’s really going on with Meaningful Use:

  • MU will indeed start to be phased out by the end of 2016, but it is not yet “effectively over”… not in any way, shape, or form
  • 25 percent of MIPS scoring, as the law is currently written, will still be based on one’s MU participation for 2016
  • Law still requires the CMS to continue measuring the meaningful use of ONC Certified Health Information Technology under the existing standard set
  • MACRA/MIPS legislation only deals with Medicare payment adjustments for individual providers (not Medicaid/Medicare hospitals)
  • While MACRA regulations are supposed to be released in 2016, all existing MU regulations (and, yes, this includes the terror that is MU Stage 3) will remain in effect
  • Providers who fail to meet MU attestation in 2016 will almost certainly have to forfeit any incentives due and will end up being penalized in their 2018 payment adjustments

Obviously, MACRA appears to still be a work in progress.  Despite what Slavitt’s rather misleading Twitter post seemed to proclaim, Meaningful Use is still “effectively” active for 2016.  Both Slavitt and DeSalvo are scheduled to speak at the HIMSS Conference in Las Vegas (February 29 – March 4, 2016), at which time it is anticipated that they will be providing more details on the transition to the MACRA program and the phasing out of Meaningful Use.

For the time being, everyone should just continue on with business as usual when it comes to MU attestation.  Hopefully, in a month or two, we will have a more clearly defined set of standards for the new MACRA program as well as the beginnings of a plan for transitioning away from Meaningful Use.

However, as DeSalvo points out in her blog post, the MU-to-MACRA transition “won’t happen overnight.”

The good news, though, is that it will happen.  Everyone just needs to hang in there for a little bit longer.