Meaningful Use: The Stakes are Rising for Physicians

CMS recently announced that 257,000 eligible professionals will face Medicare payment adjustments because of noncompliance with meaningful use standards.

It is no secret that the healthcare landscape continues to be dynamic and that 2015 will be no exception. One area of significant importance for providers is meaningful use. In December 2014, CMS announced that 257,000 eligible professionals will be subjected to Medicare payment adjustments because of noncompliance with the meaningful use standards. Hospitals were penalized, too, albeit only 200 hospitals began receiving payment reductions on October 1, 2014.

In a statement, Steven Stack, MD, president-elect of the AMA indicated, “The penalties physicians are facing under the meaningful use program are part of a regulatory tsunami facing physicians, apart from the flawed sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula, that could include cuts from the physician quality reporting system (PQRS), the value-based modifier program (VBM) and the sequester, further destabilizing physician practices and creating a disincentive to see Medicare patients. According to the administration, only half of eligible physicians participated in PQRS in 2013, meaning many will incur penalties from both the meaningful use and PQRS programs. The overlapping and often conflicting patchwork of laws and regulations must be fixed and aligned to ensure physicians are able to move to innovative payment and delivery models that could improve the quality of care."

In addition to the enforcement of penalties and payment reductions for noncompliance with meaningful use standards, physicians need to brace and prepare for stricter EHR certification requirements and growing complexity between the meaningful use stages.

Given the limited number of certified EHR (CEHRT) providers, CMS issued a final rule in 2014 granting limited flexibility to providers and allowed them to attest for meaningful use utilizing a 2011 Edition CEHRT or a combination 2011/2014 CEHRT.

In order to avoid a penalty, providers should make sure they meet all 17 core objectives for Stage 2 and all 13 core objectives for Stage 1. Be sure that your practice is HIPAA compliant, too, because that is one of the items being attested to!