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Small Meaningful Use Penalties for Small Practices

Posted on February 17, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Michelle has posted an interesting CMS analysis of the price of EHR penalties for physicians:

CMS reports that the majority of physicians who will be penalized this year for not having met MU requirements will lose less than $1,000 of their Medicare reimbursement; 34% of the penalties will be $250 or less, while 31% will exceed $2,000.

The adjustments will impact approximately 257,000 eligible providers. While no one likes losing money, the CMS penalty “stick” is pretty small compared to the overall cost of implementing an EHR.

Unfortunately her link to the CMS report seemed to be the wrong link. I’d love to dig into the 31% of doctors who will exceed $2000 in penalties. $2000 still isn’t very compelling to most doctors I know, but if it scales from there we could see how many doctors are really going to suffer from the EHR penalties.

What’s also not clear to me is if this includes the PQRS penalties as well. All of the penalties start to add up. I also heard one doctor talk about the feared 22% Medicare cut that’s been delayed for a decade or so (I lose track of the number of years). I’ll be surprised if those cuts aren’t delayed again, but it’s interesting that many doctors fear these cuts even if they’re likely to be delayed. Perception is still very important.

Back to the meaningful use penalties, $1000 penalty is not something most doctors will bat an eye at. Even those who have an EHR are opting out of meaningful use stage 2. The math doesn’t work out for small practices. $1000 of penalties certainly won’t balance the equation either. I expect a very small number of small practices to do meaningful use stage 2. Hospitals on the other hand are a different story.

Athenahealth Goes After Hospitals and Tavenner Steps Down

Posted on January 22, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

There were two big pieces of news this week that I thought I’d discuss. Hopefully you’ll also add your thoughts and insights in the comments.

1. Athenahealth Moves Into Hospital Market With Acquisition Of Atlanta Startup RazorInsights
I thought the announcement of this acquisition was really interesting. Literally the day before this came out, someone asked me what I thought of Athenahealth. After some discussion, they said do you think they’ll take on Epic and Cerner. I quickly responded, “Well, they don’t have an inpatient EHR, so they don’t have a dog in the fight.” Well, now they do have a dog in the fight. Of course, RazorInsights still isn’t a big competitor of Epic and Cerner. However, if I know Jonathan Bush, that’s the ambition. At least that’s what his numerous cloud rants lead you to believe that he thinks he can take down Epic and Cerner with one single word: Cloud. We’ll see what RazorInsights can do under the Athenahealth umbrella.

2. CMS Leader Marilyn Tavenner Steps Down
Neil Versel has a great article covering Tavenner’s departure. His comments are pretty interesting when it comes to her staying low-profile and away from the media during her tenure at CMS. She’s certainly taken a lot of heat from the botched rollout of Healthcare.gov and other programs.

Personally, I’ll most remember her for her promise at HIMSS 2014 that ICD-10 was going to happen and that healthcare organizations better be ready. Of course, we know how that story played out with Congress passing a few lines in the SGR bill to delay ICD-10 another year. Given Tavenner’s promise, I’m quite sure she was blind sided by Congress’ move as well.

I’m not sure her departure is a good or a bad thing for healthcare. I’m sure that the healthcare behemoth will move along like it always has. Best of luck to her wherever she lands. No doubt working in the government in a high profile position is a rather thankless job that usually pays below market wages.

Who do you think will take Tavenner’s position at CMS? Does it matter?

Looking Back at 2014: Thermidor for Health Care Reform?

Posted on December 29, 2014 I Written By

Andy Oram is an editor at O'Reilly Media, a highly respected book publisher and technology information provider. An employee of the company since 1992, Andy currently specializes in open source, software engineering, and health IT, but his editorial output has ranged from a legal guide covering intellectual property to a graphic novel about teenage hackers. His articles have appeared often on EMR & EHR and other blogs in the health IT space. Andy also writes often for O'Reilly's Radar site (http://radar.oreilly.com/) and other publications on policy issues related to the Internet and on trends affecting technical innovation and its effects on society. Print publications where his work has appeared include The Economist, Communications of the ACM, Copyright World, the Journal of Information Technology & Politics, Vanguardia Dossier, and Internet Law and Business. Conferences where he has presented talks include O'Reilly's Open Source Convention, FISL (Brazil), FOSDEM, and DebConf.

As money drains out of health care reform, there are indications that the impetus for change is receding as well. Yet some bright spots in health IT remain, so it’s not yet time to announce a Thermidor–the moment when a revolution is reversed and its leaders put to the guillotine. Let’s look back a bit at what went right and wrong in 2014.
Read more..

The Real Problem with ICD-10 Delay or ICD-10 #NoDelay

Posted on December 10, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Today, AHIMA put together a really interesting Twitter campaign (they called a Twitter chat, but it wasn’t as much of a chat as a Twitter campaign in my book) where they tweeted about the need for no more delay to ICD-10. You can see what they did by checking out the #nodelay and #ICD10Matters hashtags. They were hitting a number of congressmen really hard. No doubt, their social media people will have seen these messages. We’ll see if that trickles up to the senators and representatives themselves.

On the opposite side is the AMA which is pushing congress for a 2 year delay to ICD-10. Modern Healthcare just published a story that the ICD-10 delay bill was “dead on arrival.” However, that seemed like a link bait headline. When you read the actual story, they suggest that the ICD-10 bill might be dead when it comes to the lame duck session of congress (now through the end of the year). However, it doesn’t address whether congress will choose to incorporate another ICD-10 delay into the SGR fix in 2015 like they did in 2014. That story is still waiting to be played out.

The real problem with all of this is a topic that we’ve discussed over and over here on EMR and EHR. It applied to meaningful use and EHR certification and now it applies just as well to the implementation of ICD-10. No doubt there are proponents and opponents on each side of the ICD-10 debate. Personally, I’ve seen both arguments and I think both sides have an interesting case to make. I don’t think the decision is as clear cut as either sides makes it out to be. If you delay ICD-10 many organizations will be hurt. If you move forward with ICD-10 many organizations will be hurt.

Uncertainty around ICD-10 is the real problem.

What’s worse than going ahead with ICD-10? Uncertainty about whether ICD-10 is going forward or not. What’s worse than delaying ICD-10? Uncertainty about whether ICD-10 is going forward or not. ICD-10 uncertainty is costing healthcare much more than either an ICD-10 delay or a hard and fast ICD-10 go live date.

The US government (yes, that includes all parts of the US government) needs to make a firm decision on whether ICD-10 should be implemented or not. If ICD-10 is going to be the US medical coding future, then we should bite the bullet and implement ICD-10 on schedule. Another delay won’t improve that implementation. If ICD-10 is not of value, then let’s offer some certainty and do away with it completely. Either way, the certainty will be more valuable than our current state of uncertainty.

I’ll admit that I’m not an expert on DC politics. However, I’ve wondered if there’s something the US government could do that would provide this certainty. In 2014, CMS had done everything they could do to provide that certainty. It turns out, they didn’t have the power to make such a promise. Congress undercut them and they got left with egg on their face.

Could Congress pass a bill that would either set the ICD-10 implementation in stone or banish ICD-10 forever? Would that provide healthcare organizations the certainty they need to plan for ICD-10? Or would they just be afraid that the President would do some executive order to delay ICD-10 again? Is there anything that can be done to communicate a clear message on ICD-10’s future?

My gut tells me that if ICD-10 isn’t delayed in the SGR Fix bill next year, then ICD-10 will probably go forward. You’ll notice that probably was the best I could say. Can anyone offer more certainty on the future of ICD-10? I don’t think they can and that’s the problem.

What I do know is that ICD-10 uncertainty is costing healthcare a lot!

Meaningful Use Audits and the Inconsistent Appeals Process

Posted on November 6, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of a meaningful use audit yet, consider yourself lucky. They are not pretty, but I’ve never met anyone who actually enjoys an audit. Turns out that meaningful use appeals are even worse than most audits. It’s likely because the meaningful use appeals process are so new and they haven’t figured out their processes. However, if you’re a clinic on the wrong side of a new process, that’s not much consolation.

Meaningful Use expert, Jim Tate, has a fascinating look into the inconsistency of meaningful use appeals. Here’s one story he shares that will kind of blow your mind (or at least annoy and scare you).

“Two Set of Rules”: You are not going to believe this one, but it is true. I was contacted last week by a large practice. Two of their physicians had failed audits. Both appealed and won with the statement from CMS: “This is the final determination notice regarding your recent appeal….Based on our review of your Appeal Filing Request, supporting documentation and the Program policies, we have accepted the documentation your provided to support your appeal. Therefore, CMS upholds your appeal.” Sounds great, doesn’t it? However, two months later they received this from CMS: “CMS has reopened the review of your appeal and supporting documentation along with others from your practice. The documentation provided….is unsufficient to support the appeal and CMS is reversing….the decision to uphold your appeal. As a result, the final CMS decision denies your appeal and upholds the adverse audit finding. This decision is not subject to further appeal.” Is it just me or it this a little bit on the crazy side? They received from CMS a “final determination” that their appeal was upheld and then two months were told the “final determination” was being undone, the appeal would now be denied and “this decision is not subject to further appeal.” Both of the letters were signed by the same CMS official. Is it just me or do we need a little sunlight on the inner workings of this process?

Jim is right that there should be a clear process for meaningful use audits and appeals. It’s interesting that Jim tried to go to DC to visit with CMS about the process. Unfortunately, his request was denied. There’s nothing worse than hitting a dead end and people aren’t willing to listen.

Hopefully CMS will hear this story and act. It’s not fair to any organization to get stuck in a bad process.

Karen DeSalvo Remains as National Coordinator of ONC Along with New Position

Posted on October 31, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

In case you missed it, last week it was announced that Karen DeSalvo had been appointed Assistant Secretary of Health focused on Ebola by HHS Secretary Burwell. In that same announcement Jacob Reider also announced his departure from ONC.

While the news was true that DeSalvo was taking on a new role at HHS as Assistant Secretary of Health, ONC also published a blog post that DeSalvo would stay on as National Coordinator of Health IT as well:

Dr. DeSalvo will serve as Acting ASH while maintaining her leadership of ONC. Importantly, she will continue to work on high level policy issues at ONC, and ONC will follow the policy direction that she has set. She will remain the chair of the Health IT Policy Committee; she will continue to lead on the development and finalization of the Interoperability Roadmap; and she will remain involved in meaningful use policymaking. She will also continue to co-chair the HHS cross-departmental work on delivery system reform.

Lisa Lewis will provide day to day leadership at ONC. Lewis served as Acting Principal Deputy National Coordinator before Dr. DeSalvo joined ONC, so she has had experience with all parts of our work. She will lead our extremely talented and very strong team during Dr. DeSalvo’s deployment to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health.

But most importantly, the team that is ONC is far more than one or two leaders. The team of ONC is personified in each and every individual – all part of a steady ship and a strong and important part of HHS’ path toward delivery system reform and overall health improvement.

Seems like an awkward arrangement if you ask me. DeSalvo will be providing high level leadership on policy direction, but Lisa Lewis will handle the day to day leadership. That job description for DeSalvo sounds like something an Assistant Secretary of Health might do and Lisa Lewis’ job sounds like something the National Coordinator would do.

I’m sure there’s more to this story. Maybe moving DeSalvo to Assistant Secretary was a way for ONC to save money and keep DeSalvo on board working on healthcare IT. If ONC’s budget gets cut, then HHS still has a way to pay for DeSalvo. Maybe that’s why Lisa Lewis can’t be promoted to full National Coordinator. Then again, maybe it’s like I mentioned when we first heard the DeSalvo news, DeSalvo is more of a public health person than she is a healthcare IT person.

The fact that DeSalvo is remaining as National Coordinator is interesting. However, I just came back from CHIME (healthcare CIO conference) where DeSalvo was scheduled as one of the plenary session speakers. However, she didn’t show and so the whole session was cancelled. I guess you could make the case that she’s got Ebola to deal with right now, but it also illustrates how health IT will be playing second fiddle for her going forward. Likely says something about the future of ONC.

Meaningful Use #HITsm Twitter Chat

Posted on October 17, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I had the honor today to host the #HITsm Twitter chat. For those not familiar with the #HITsm chat, you just join every Friday at Noon ET and watch the tweets that are sent using the #HITsm hashtag. There are usually 4-5 questions that are discussed over the hour chat. Since I was the host, I created the questions this week. I chose to focus the chat on the latest happenings with meaningful use. The transcript of the chat is found here.

I just took a look at the stats for the chat on Symplur and saw that the chat had 68 participants that sent out 474 tweets which had 3,196,079 impressions. You have to be a little careful looking at impressions since that’s potential impressions, but it’s still interesting to consider the possible reach of a chat.

There were some really interesting tweets during the chat, so here are the questions and a few (ok, more than a few since I got carried away) of my favorite tweets: Read more..

ACO by ACO Savings and Payments Report

Posted on September 26, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

One of my favorite former CMS people, Travis Broome, recently shared a link to the ACO Savings and payment report. It provides an interesting view into the year 1 results of the Medicare Shared Savings Program (Medicare ACO program if you prefer).

It’s interesting to see which ACOs and other organizations got paid, but probably even more interesting to see ones that didn’t get paid at all. My guess is that many of them dropped out. If I’m reading the report properly, I could only find one organization that incurred a loss. It seems that Dean Clinic and St. Mary’s Hospital ACO in Wisconsin owes $3.96 million. Looks like they took the high risk-high reward option and lost. I’d love to talk to someone from that organization and hear what happened.

Travis Broome offered a number of other insights into the ACO report:

What do you think of the ACO program? I think it’s a bad sign that so many organizations fell out of the program. However, the trend and move towards this reimbursement is going to happen. I really don’t see how it could stop.

Purpose of EHR Incentive Program According to CMS

Posted on September 9, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

When I was reading through the EHR Certification flexibility final rule, I found a really interesting part of the rule (pg.49-50) that describes what CMS sees as the purpose of the HITECH act and all the money their spending on EHR software:

The entire overarching purpose of the EHR Incentive Program is to move providers towards advanced use of health IT to support reductions in cost, increased access, and improved outcomes for patients.

It’s been one of my pet peeves lately. People always come on this site or on social media and say “that goes against the purpose of the HITECH act.” I often would reply, “what is the purpose of the HITECH act?”

My problem with people’s comments about the purpose of all this spending on EHR software is that purpose changes depending on perspective. I’ve written before about the misalignment between “incentives” and “purpose.”

While I think the purpose for something changes based on whose perspective you’re talking about, I think it’s really important to know where CMS is coming from when it comes to the EHR incentive money and meaningful use. Now we know. They made it quite clear in the final rule.

How do you think the EHR incentive money is doing at achieving CMS’ purpose?

CMS Adds Vendor Unreadiness To Meaningful Use Hardship Exemptions

Posted on March 11, 2014 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

After watching providers struggle to get their vendors in line for the next round of attestations, CMS has decided to give hospitals a break where vendor unreadiness is concerned in meeting Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements.

Until recently, lack of infrastructure and unforeseen or uncontrollable circumstances were the only criteria CMS would consider in granting hardship exemptions to providers struggling with reading Stage 2 requirements.

Now, CMS has taken a new step demonstrating that it understands that EMR vendors are not up to speed many cases. CMS has added “2014 EHR vendor issues” as an acceptable reason to receive a hardship exemption to Stage 2 requirements.

To qualify for this exemption, the hospital’s EHR vendor must have been unable to obtain 2014 certification of the hospital was unable to implement Meaningful  Use due to 2014 EHR certification delays. According to the form required to apply for this exemption, “circumstances must be beyond the Hospital’s control and the Hospital must explicitly outline of the circumstances significantly impaired the Hospital’s ability to meet Meaningful Use.”

CMS has also offered additional hardship exemptions to eligible professionals. Eligible professionals can use “lack of control over the availability of Certified EHR Technology” and “lack of Face-to-Face interaction” as well as EHR vendor issues lack of infrastructure and unforeseen/uncontrollable circumstances.

The expansion of hardship exemptions follows a letter that was sent by six Republican senators last week to CMS requesting clarification of the qualification criteria for the hardship program. The Senators, in their letter, asked CMS how hardship categories might be expanded.

As I see it, it’s good to give providers a break under these circumstances, as they can hardly control whether their vendors have their act together. The question is, how long can CMS continue to give providers and vendors exemptions without undermining their larger policy goals?