THINK TANK | Changes to Meaningful Use Could Bring New Opportunities

For followers of health information technology news, there has been considerable buzz about the overhaul of Meaningful Use. I first heard about the change in March at the HIMSS18 Global Conference & Exhibition. In an address to the audience, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma, and the director of The White House Office for American Innovation Jared Kushner, provided an overview of the Trump administration’s position on healthcare information. The theme was clear and poignant, data must travel freely through the healthcare system and consumers must have unimpeded access to their health records. To an overflowing ballroom of physicians, health information specialists, and health information vendors, Verma announced that for data to flow freely, there would be an overhaul of Meaningful Use.

Meaningful Use Overhaul

Since the official announcement, CMS has released additional information about the MyHealthEData initiative aimed at putting individuals at the center of the healthcare system. My general take? There are a number of issues the administration and various federal agencies still need to address if we are going to create a system that is grounded in value-based care and built on a population health foundation. Flaws to the way interoperability is working, reported health information blocking, and improving and increasing an individual’s access to their complete health records all come to mind. That being said, I do commend the new attention these issues are receiving under this administration. At HIMSS18, Ms. Verma used a personal story to convey her family’s inability to access health information at a time of crisis and used this example as a case study of what is wrong with the world of health information today, especially with regards to access and interoperability. This emphasis on interoperability can even be seen in the new name for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs which will no longer be called Meaningful Use, instead it will now be known as Promoting Interoperability (PI) Programs.

For many of Foothold Technology’s behavioral health customers, interoperability has already become an increasingly important aspect of their work. It will continue to be the case as the landscape of care continues to adapt. The topic of interoperability was front and center recently when I joined my Foothold colleague Alex Attinson and Foothold customer Meredith O’Boyle, Vice President, Behavioral Health Services at Bailey House at the New York State Care Management Coalition Training Conference earlier this year. In a workshop discussion, we discussed current efforts taking place to connect providers to Health Information Exchanges (HIEs) and how EHRs can equip these agencies with powerful care coordination tools.

Digital Health Innovation

Just as the administration is providing new vigor around electronic data, members of Congress are also debating ways to provide more funding and more tools to support providers through the use of EHRs. Foothold Technology is a member of the national Electronic Health Record Agency (EHRA), of which I’m an active participant in many committees and workgroups. As a collaborative body, the EHRA sent a joint letter of support related to the “Access to Behavioral Health Information Technology Act (S 1732/HR 3331),” federal legislation aimed at providing support for providers. This would include support for psychiatric hospitals, community mental health centers, clinical psychologists, clinical social workers, mental health or substance use disorder providers. If passed, it will help improve the coordination and quality of care for individuals with mental health, substance use disorders, and other behavioral healthcare needs, and could offer funds to providers not included in the EHR Incentive Program. In addition, over the past several months, Congress has generated well over 70 independent bills designed to address the opioid crisis. I will share more details in future communication, including more about my involvement with a national task force, but it is worth noting that many of these bills under consideration address the need for common data sets, access to data, and interoperability.

For now, I encourage you to stay involved, stay aware, and advocate with your elected officials for continued support of behavioral health funds and guidance. If you are working at a provider agency, I urge you to continue to find ways to use your data strategically. No matter the outcome of this legislation, your data is your currency. It keeps you marketable, and most importantly, it can help drive your decision-making in powerful ways. If you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.