Last week, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Andy Slavitt announced that the Electronic Health Records (EHR) Meaningful Use program will “effectively” end and be “replaced with something better.”

On January 12, 2016, Administrator Slavitt addressed the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.  Administrator Slavitt spoke about a number of subjects, but the big news was his announcement of the end of the EHR Meaningful Use program, which has long frustrated Medicare and Medicaid providers.

Administrator Slavitt began his remarks by stressing his commitment, as “a private sector guy,” to be transparent and cooperative with the private sector.  He explained that, when he was in the private sector, “CMS often felt opaque to me, and I probably said more than once how helpful it would be to know CMS’s agenda rather than divining them by poring through an often intricate set of regulations like they were Fed minutes.”  Administrator Slavitt also indicated a desire to improve implementation of CMS initiatives, explaining that he is “a believer in the maxim that it’s always 90 percent about implementation.”

Administrator Slavitt discussed the EHR Meaningful Use program in the context of the recently enacted Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA).  He explained that MACRA “brings pay for value into the mainstream through something called the Merit-based incentive program, which compels [CMS] to measure physicians on four categories: quality, cost, the use of technology, and practice improvement.”

Turning to the role of the Meaningful Use program, Administrator Slavitt stated:

Now that we effectively have technology in[] virtually every place care is provided, we are now in the process of ending Meaningful  Use and moving to a new regime culminating with the MACRA implementation.

The Meaningful Use program as it has existed, will now be effectively over and replaced with something better.  Since late last year we have been working side by side with physician organizations across many communities — including with great advocacy from the AMA — and have listened to the needs and concerns of many. We will be putting out the details on this next stage over the next few months, but I will give you a themes guiding our implementation.

Although the program details will be released “over the next few months,” Administrator Slavitt identified several features the new program would include:

  1. Increased focus on patient outcomes, instead of rewarding providers for the use of technology;
  2. “providers will be able to customize their goals so tech companies can build around the individual practice needs, not the needs of the government”;
  3. requiring “open” application program interfaces in EHR to “allow apps, analytic tools, and connected technologies to get data in and out of an EHR securely”; and
  4. increased focus on interoperability.

As for the last feature, Administrator Slavitt stressed that CMS is “deadly serious about interoperability.”  “And technology companies that look for ways to practice ‘data blocking’ in opposition to new regulations will find that it won’t be tolerated.”