Providers Heard Promises and Warnings at HIMSS

I just spent three days in Las Vegas at the annual HIMSS conference, with 43,000 of my closest friends. As the Vice President for Government Affairs at SRS Health, my goal in attending this conference each year is to get a heads-up directly from the leaders of CMS and ONC regarding what the government has in store for physicians. While no secrets are leaked in the sessions or meetings at HIMSS, several government program–related themes clearly emerged this year—topping the list was interoperability and burden reduction.

  • Seema Verma, Administrator of CMS, promised a “complete overhaul” of Meaningful Use, and (I assume) by extension, the ACI portion of MACRA. She was purposely short on details, so we don’t know exactly what that means, but subsequent conversations with her team confirmed what it does not mean: MACRA is not going away; MU3 is not disappearing; and the use of 2015 CEHRT is not off the table. I don’t expect that we will see major changes, but we will have to wait for the details to be revealed in the rulemaking that comes later this year.
  • Interoperability will be the focus going forward, and providers were warned that measures are being developed to identify and prevent information blocking, as required by the 21st Century Cures Act, going so far as to impose fines for willful actions in this regard. Patient data must be shared freely between providers; and it must be made easily—and electronically—available to, and controllable by, the owners of that data, i.e., the patients themselves, through programs like the newly announced MyHealthEData initiative.
  • Promises of regulatory relief and clinical burden reduction were abundant, and were offered within various contexts, including the overhaul of MACRA to reduce the time providers devote to compliance, streamlining documentation for the E&M coding/billing process, and the introduction of the Meaningful Measures initiative to increase the validity and efficiency of quality measurement and reporting. ONC and CMS led several ”listening sessions” in which they sought feedback on burden reduction—I sensed hopeful optimism tempered by healthy skepticism on the part of attendees.
  • The opioid crisis is on everyone’s mind. As one Congressional staffer put it, this is the “issue du jour.” It is being addressed at the national level as well as by the states, the majority of which are already mandating PDMP checking before a physician can write a prescription for a controlled substance. One challenge here will be for HIT and EHR vendors to automate this process so that the problem can be tackled without creating a new task that providers will perceive as yet another burden. 

It will be interesting to see what progress is made in all of the above areas when HIMSS reconvenes in 2019.

Lynn Scheps

Lynn Scheps

VP, Government Affairs & Consulting Services at SRS Health
Lynn Scheps is a leading resource on MACRA, MIPS, and Meaningful Use. She is the SRS liaison with government policy makers. Representing the voice of specialists and other high-performance physicians, she develops strategies to respond effectively to government initiatives.
Lynn Scheps

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