Impact Insights

Week in Review 8/21/15

PATIENCE IS WEARING THIN AS PROVIDERS WAIT FOR THE FINAL RULE ON MEANINGFUL USE CHANGES… A number of hospitals and IT stakeholders recently sent separate letters to HHS urging the agency to release the “long past due” Final Rule on meaningful use changes in 2015-2017.  Frustration is building because the current hospital reporting period is scheduled to end on September 30, 2015.  Even if the proposed change to the length of the 2015 reporting period is finalized (as expected), hospitals and EPs would still have to start collecting 90 days of data on revised MU requirements no later than October 3, 2015.  Although many have been expecting the Final Rule any day now, Politico reported this week that they have heard speculation that it might not be published until late September.  For more on the important changes CMS has proposed to meaningful use in 2015-17, click here for Impact Advisors’ overview and analysis.

Impact Advisors’ Thoughts:  Despite the speculation, it is important to remember that no one knows for sure when the Final Rule will be released.  The uncertainty is extremely frustrating, but for better or worse there are formal procedures CMS has to follow to as part of the federal rule-making process (including reviewing and responding to all public comments).  That being said, there is absolutely no reason the proposed rule could not have been published months earlier, as the issues it seeks to address have been well documented for quite some time.  We remain hopeful that CMS will publish something in the next week or two.

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN TO TRUST A MEDICAL STUDY?… A highly recommended article published in the New York Times looks at how to be a “savvy consumer” of medical research.  Although “there is no substitute for careful examination of studies by experts,” the Times notes that asking yourself a few simple questions about a study can still go a long way.  For example, did the study look at the effects of a drug or medical procedure on actual people?  Was it a randomized controlled trial or a “non-experimental” or “observational” study?  The author sums up his perspective with a great reminder: “Few things are miracle cures, but when one shows up, we’ll see its signature in not just one study, but in many.”

Impact Advisors’ Thoughts:  The focus of the article is on medical research, but many of the great points the author makes pertain just as equally to studies about healthcare IT and the impact EHRs can have on clinical outcomes.  The author does a fantastic job of summarizing the differences between two complicated research methods – both of which are also used in some healthcare IT studies – in a way that is easy to understand.  Highly recommended reading!

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT… According to a survey from the National Business Group on Health, in 2016 almost three quarters of large employers (74%) plan to offer their employees telehealth options in states where it is legal; in 2014, just under half (48%) of large employers reported doing so.  More info is available in this article from Reuters.