HHS Forging Ahead with Health IT Plans B, C and D

By Peggy Salvatore

Yesterday, just as I was turning out the lights in my office, two breaking Health IT news stories came in over the proverbial transom. The Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT (ONCHIT) announced that it has readjusted its Meaningful Use plans and set more focused goals for interoperability. I must remember to close the transom before I shut down my computer. That was too much to digest at dinner time.

Meaningful Use Rules Modified

According to FierceEMR , HHS changed the requirements for MU from 2015 through 2017 and implementing Stage 3 of the program. Here’s the really good part:

The rules “shift the paradigm so health IT becomes a tool for care improvement, not an end in itself.”

Ponder that.

In other good news, CMS will no longer be financially punishing doctors who can’t meet MU by moving “physicians out of the Meaningful Use program into a new merit-based incentive payment system,” a story in Healthcare IT News  reports. Whew. Got rid of that stick and replaced it – apparently, at least – with a carrot called MIPS (merit-based incentive payment system).

The Interoperability Road Map

As for the new interoperability goals, HHS released its final interoperability road map that sets a 10 year timeline for with “the ultimate goal…of (building) a learning health system by 2014” based on data. Briefly, the roadmap has three milestones:

  • 3-year milestone. By 2017, the nationwide health IT system should be able to enable the sending, receiving, finding and using of health data
  • 6-year milestone between 2018 and 2020. Expand data sources and increase the number of users to create healthier populations at a lower cost
  • 10-year milestone. We arrive at a “learning health system” requiring nationwide interoperability that puts the person at the center of system that continuously improves care, public health and science through real-time data access

So there you have it. By 2024, we should arrive.

There is a lot more to both of these documents. And, for those with long memories, you will recall that two weeks ago HHS released it Federal Health IT Strategic Plan. These two latest documents regarding MU and the interoperability roadmap are in service to meeting the four goals outlined in the strategic plan:

Goal 1: Advance person-centered and self-managed health

Goal 2: Transform health care delivery and community health

Goal 3: Foster research, scientific knowledge and innovation

Goal 4: Enhance the nation’s health IT infrastructure

If you are an interested party, HHS is taking comments on the updated MU rules for 60 days. According to the article , it is widely believed that MU 3 will be, at the very least, delayed. HHS has taken serious note of the fact that a Robert Wood Johnson study recently questioned whether a well-intended MU initiative has been all that successful. The new rules have significantly pared down the requirements for each stage and rolled back reporting requirements.

A Traumatized Healthcare System?

Meanwhile, this morning John Lynn makes a very astute observation about health IT implementation at his EMR & HIPAA blog . John suggests that U.S. healthcare organizations are experiencing a sort of “PTSD” around health IT requirements using Mayo Clinic’s definition of the syndrome. Here’s a link to his thoughts on the trauma that these continually changing rules have wrought on an already burdened healthcare system (remember, the whole point of the system is to take care of sick people which is a very difficult job). John guest blogged in this spot last year and I highly recommend his blog if you are interested in staying current on the state of the healthcare technology and implementations.

More to follow on all these developments as I get a chance to dig down into the guts of the documents.


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