Impact Insights

Week in Review 10/23/15: MU Clarifications from CMS; New Interoperability Metrics Coming?

IMPORTANT CLARIFICATIONS FROM CMS ON THE MU FINAL RULE… In the time since the MU Final Rule was released in early October, CMS has issued some very important clarifications about requirements in 2015-17.  First and foremost, CMS published an FAQ this week clarifying that alternate exclusions will be available for the public health objective for hospitals or EPs who had not planned to attest to some of the (previously optional) measures in 2015.  This was one of the biggest problems with the Final Rule that we outlined in our recent white paper, so the clarification is very good news for many provider organizations.  CMS also released a more general FAQ that states any hospital or EP who cannot meet MU in 2015 “for reasons related to the timing of the publication of the final rule” may apply for a hardship exception in the “extreme and uncontrollable circumstances” category.  According to CMS, although hardship exceptions are decided on a case-by-case basis, the agency has approved more than 85% of the applications it has received.

Impact Advisors’ Thoughts CMS’ FAQ page is extremely cumbersome – and there is no way to search by date – so many providers may not even be aware of these important clarifications.  If anyone in your hospital or health system is working on a strategy for MU in 2015, definitely be sure to send along the FAQs below!

Note: Impact Advisors’ white paper – “Summary and Analysis of the MU Final Rule: Modifications in 2015-17 and Stage 3 Requirements” – is also available in the Thought Leadership section of our website.

NEW INTEROPERABILITY METRICS ON THE HORIZON?… Earlier this week, KLAS announced that a group of EHR vendor executives agreed to “objective measures of interoperability and ongoing reporting.”  Modern Healthcare reports that the proposed interoperability metrics will be based on both “harder” information (e.g. specific types of data that providers have been able to exchange using a vendor’s system, like lab results) as well as “softer” information (e.g. the vendor’s responsiveness to client interoperability needs).  The article in Modern Healthcare also points out that the announcement comes amid mounting criticism from Congress about the lack of interoperability between EHRs.  According to KLAS, the next step for the new metrics is “to put a cohesive plan in place to launch and monitor the measurement.”

The 12 EHR vendors that participated in the development of the interoperability measures were:

  • Allscripts
  • athenahealth
  • Cerner
  • eClinicalWorks
  • Epic
  • GE Healthcare
  • Greenway
  • Healthland
  • McKesson
  • NextGen Healthcare

Impact Advisors’ Thoughts The announcement itself is definitely encouraging.  KLAS is a highly-respected independent research company, and all of the major EHR vendors (along with some prestigious CIOs) were involved in the development.  Whether or not the announcement is enough to keep Congress from getting more involved remains to be seen though.

WHICH EHRs ARE EASIEST TO CONNECT TO?… KLAS also published a report on EHR interoperability this week (which appears to be unrelated to the news above about the new interoperability metrics that have been developed).  The study found that opinions on which EHRs are the “easiest / most effective to connect to” varied depending on who was asked.  Among providers who were rating their own EHR’s ability to connect to other systems, the top vendors were athenahealth and Epic.  Among “non-customers” (i.e. providers who were rating other EHRs they connect with), the top vendors were athenahealth and Cerner.  When KLAS asked the EHR vendors for opinions on their peers, Epic was rated “most effective.”

Impact Advisors’ Thoughts:  Despite all of the attention around “interoperability” of late, we think it is worth noting that KLAS states in the report that they “have yet to see EMR decisions hinging on which vendor is better at externally sharing health information data.”