The uncertain future of Meaningful Use
Just when physicians thought Meaningful Use would never end, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced in January that the current program would go away this year. But it’s already clear that while Meaningful Use will change, it’s far from dead.
Medical associations and physicians have expressed both optimism and concern regarding the recent pledge by CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt that the Meaningful Use program will end in 2016 and be replaced by “something better.”
It’s a good sign that Slavitt went as far as he did in making that statement, says Wanda Filer, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). “When you see a program that has gone as far off the rails as the Meaningful Use program, it shows some leadership to be able to say we’ve got a problem here and we know it needs to change.”
Nevertheless, Filer and other observers say that they’ll have to learn the details of CMS’ new program before they can decide whether it makes sense. Slavitt indicated that those details would be available within a few months.
David Blumenthal, MD, president of The Commonwealth Fund and a former national coordinator for health IT, cautions that the law that established the Meaningful Use program has certain requirements that the head of CMS can’t set aside on his own.
“There’s a long way to go between now and a termination of Meaningful Use,” he said.
Indeed, Slavitt’s January remarks at the J.P. Morgan Annual Health Care Conference in San Francisco raise many questions, ranging from what will replace the current program to whether non-attesting physicians will still be liable for penalties to whether the EHR certification program will continue in its current form.