Buzzword of the Day: Value-based Payment

ekg-moneyThe buzzword of the day is “Value-Based Payment”, and everyone is talking about the transition from volume to value. Recently, Becker’s—the leading source of cutting-edge business and legal information for healthcare industry leaders—interviewed SRS’ Lynn Scheps and Lester Parada as part of an article exploring this very important subject. The article discusses what “value-based” means, how the recently proposed regulations supporting the implementation of the MACRA legislation will impact orthopaedists, and how EHRs must evolve to facilitate practice success in the future. Read Value-based payments are coming for orthopedics: Are you ready?

MACRA and MIPS: They Promised Simpler!

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

open-book-formulaThe proposed MACRA rule is here. With the goal of changing the way physicians are paid, this rule proposes how CMS intends to move toward increasingly rewarding value—meaning high quality care at a cost-effective price—over volume.

CMS claims that MACRA will simplify life for providers, (although I’m a little suspicious since it took 962 pages to explain the “simplification”). However, there is no question that the world is about to change. These proposed regs are scheduled to be finalized in November and then be effective on January 1, 2017—a rather ambitious schedule which leaves little time for planning your approach to compliance.

While I haven’t read the entire rule yet, MACRA—Medicare Access and Chip Reauthorization Act—provides two paths for physicians and other clinicians. In the long-term, APMs (Alternate Payment Models, like ACOs) will be a popular route—higher risk/higher reward—but for now, most physicians will participate in the MIPS (Merit-Based Incentive Program) option. So let me provide a few teasers about MIPS, as currently proposed:

  • If you expected an end to Meaningful Use, PQRS, and the Value-Based Payment Program, you will be disappointed for certain. MIPS just changes the names, rolls them up into one program, and adds (yet another) set of required activities.
  • Providers will be scored on a 100-point scale and compared to other providers—this year’s weighting would be 25% MU-type measures, 50% quality measures, a la PQRS, 10% cost, and 15% Clinical Practice Improvement Activities. (The rule spells out how a provider’s score is calculated and the payment adjustment is determined, but you might need an advanced math degree to follow that discussion!)
  • MU is now “Advancing Care Information”. It will have fewer required measures (proposing to eliminate CPOE, CDS, and multiple Public Health reporting requirements), no longer be all or nothing, and will provide some choices to clinicians for how they demonstrate success. CQM reporting will not be part of this component.
  • Quality measure reporting (like PQRS) will be the bulk of the score, but only 6 measures will be required. Like under the Value-Based Payment Program, performance will count, i.e., impact the provider’s score.
  • Assessment of cost will be done by CMS—providers won’t have to report anything. This is similar to how CMS currently attributes a cost factor to providers in calculating the V-BPM.
  • The new category, Clinical Practice Improvement Activities, offers providers a choice of approximately 90 activities from which to choose to earn points in that category.
  • MIPS would be reportable as an individual provider or as a group.

Stay tuned to EMR StraightTalk for more in-depth analysis of MACRA in upcoming posts. We welcome your initial comments.

 

How the Evolution Started in Data-Capture Technology

Adam Curran

Adam Curran

Product Marketing Manager at SRS Health
Adam Curran is a Product Marketing Manager at SRS. He oversees marketing intelligence to support the development of strategic marketing plans. Prior to joining the organization, he was a key member of a pharmaceutical software company’s Clinical Development Business Unit, specializing in the clinical data management elements of the drug development lifecycle. He was also the editor for their microsite’s blog. Adam has also held roles at the UK’s National Energy Foundation and Skills Funding Agency.
Adam Curran

EvolutionDo you remember the days when cell phones were brand new? I am not referring to the Nokia 3310 (back when all we needed was a single game, Snake – simpler times . . .). I am talking about when they were first launched and introduced. Those were the days when cell phones were only purchased by business people and you could only make calls near a transmitter tower (oh how mobile!). They used to come with big cases, but these were not for the phone itself; their real purpose was to hold the phone’s huge battery! Despite that, the purpose of original cell phones was clear—to make phone calls on the move. Well, so long as you were going past at least one transmitter tower on the way . . .

Fast-forward to today—the cell phone we once knew has completely changed, and along with it, we see a transformation in how people see and use their phones. What used to be their original purpose (making phone calls) has now been virtually replaced by activities such as Internet browsing, checking social networks, shopping, listening to music, and playing games (you can still download Snake, but it’s no longer pre-installed!).

It would probably be more fitting to call them powerful mini-computers; the average smartphone today is millions of times more powerful than all of NASA’s combined computing power in 1969. Smartphones today are even powerful enough to run old Windows operating systems such as Windows 95. Good to know for all those old-operating-system enthusiasts who want a bit of nostalgia on the go.

The evolution of cell phones eventually led to a revolution in the market. The pace at which technology was developing eventually led to the creation of the first iPhone—the rest is history!

So how does the evolution and revolution in cell phones relate to data-capture technology? Just as the first cell phones had only one purpose—talking—data capture nowadays means simply sharing or collecting information. While 1990s-era electronic data capture focused almost exclusively on big data associated with clinical trials such as EDC and electronic patient reported outcomes (ePRO), it was eventually adapted for private medical practice. Over the years, the opportunities afforded by electronic data capture have grown, partly because of healthcare costs.

However, although these first digital data-capture systems offered some relief to physicians and other users, they were still time-consuming and cumbersome, creating more productivity issues than they solved. What was meant to save time actually had the opposite effect; while the new systems were being introduced, they actually resulted in physicians seeing fewer patients.

Back then, these solutions were designed for primary-care physicians. Specialists, who needed to maintain smaller sets of data, found that these first digital systems did not take their specific needs into account. What specialists required was a solution that would allow them to see many patients without sacrificing data quality and regulatory compliance. Fortunately, there were a few vendors who had the insight to rise up to the challenge and help to solve these specialty-specific problems.

To find out more about the evolution of data capture and how EHR solutions are becoming revolutionary—like smartphones—read our recent whitepaper on this topic.

Top 5 Observations at HIMSS16

Adam Curran

Adam Curran

Product Marketing Manager at SRS Health
Adam Curran is a Product Marketing Manager at SRS. He oversees marketing intelligence to support the development of strategic marketing plans. Prior to joining the organization, he was a key member of a pharmaceutical software company’s Clinical Development Business Unit, specializing in the clinical data management elements of the drug development lifecycle. He was also the editor for their microsite’s blog. Adam has also held roles at the UK’s National Energy Foundation and Skills Funding Agency.
Adam Curran

HIMSS16

With a conference that draws over 50,000 attendees, 1300+ vendors, 300 educational sessions, and interesting keynote speakers, there is always plenty of food for thought. So much so that it can take a while to really assimilate all the information and process it into key observations.

Our team has just returned from the show, so I just wanted to quickly share our top 5 observations at HIMSS16:

  1. Value-based payments: There was much discussion on the shift to value-based payment. The MACRA/MIPS regulations are expected in the spring, which could mean as early as March or as late as June, with the Final Regulations mandated to be published by November 1. While the goal of MIPS is to simplify life for providers (by rolling up all the various current programs into one streamlined program), it’s a good bet that things will get more complex before they get easier. All of this begs the question: How will physicians be ready to comply beginning on January 1, 2017?
  1. Interoperability: No surprise that everyone was talking about this! This was reinforced when big-name healthcare technology providers promised to use standardized APIs to make access to patient information easier. Interestingly enough, this also ties in with the HHS wanting to expand its oversight of electronic health record vendors. The proposal they released on March 1 would allow the agency to review how certified health IT products interact with other products, with the aim to prevent data blocking, and to review certified HIT vendors if required (and even to take away their certification if necessary!) The comment period for the ONC rule ends on May 2.
  1. Population Health: This is increasingly becoming one of the top buzzwords at this show. More and more people are talking about it, but there does not seem to be a clear definition about what value this brings. After discussions with different attendees and vendors, it was clear how unclear it was: everyone was providing different answers. The term population health is much more widely used than it was back in 2003 when it was defined by Greg Soddart and David Kindig as “the health outcomes of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group.” The management element is using the aggregation of patient data to devise actions that improve both clinical and financial outcomes. But what data should be used, especially when it comes to specialty practices? Clearly this is something that needs to be defined to ensure we are getting real value from these solutions.
  1. HHS and CMS: There was an interesting session with Karen DeSalvo (National Coordinator for HIT, Asst. Secretary HHS) and Andy Slavitt (Acting Administrator, CMS) where the barriers to data sharing was discussed, and 3 commitments were announced:
    1. Consumers will be able to easily and securely access their electronic health information and send it wherever and to whomever they want.
    2. Providers will share information for patient care with other providers and will refrain from information blocking.
    3. The government will implement national interoperability standards, policies, and practices and will adopt best practices related to privacy and security.

This further reinforces the 2nd observation in this post about HHS wanting to expand its oversight of electronic health record vendors. This session also brought up an interesting point about data blocking; DeSalvo pointed out that a year ago there were a “host of organizations who denied that blocking even was happening,” and now these same groups are “willing to publicly say that they want to engage in something now they’ve acknowledged info blocking can exist.” Hopefully, these same groups will follow with their pledges. As Slavitt advised, “I strongly encourage you to recognize those that don’t [live up to their pledges]” (FierceHealthIT).

  1. EHR collides with NFL: Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, the reigning Super Bowl Champ, gave a speech at the show thanking the health IT community. For a man who has gone through 3 potentially career-breaking, neck surgeries, I think it is fair to say he can “fully appreciate the value of information systems to keep hospitals functioning.” A physician joined Manning on stage, discussing the NFL’s EHR system and their portals, allowing players access to their medical details. Manning put it like this: “Football is a game. Revolutionizing healthcare is a mighty endeavor.” He also mentioned that leaders in any field need to evolve to match circumstances (HealthcareIT News).

Of course, HIMMS is a huge show where other topics were discussed too, such as patient engagement and RCM. The points mentioned above were only our key takeaways from it. We want to understand the latest regulations and trends, and how these will impact healthcare specialists. What were your key takeaways?

The End of MU… Oh, Never Mind!

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

chameleon-315pxAccording to a recent speech by Andy Slavitt, Acting Administrator of CMS, “The Meaningful Use program as it has existed will now be effectively over.” Not surprisingly, the media picked up this news—particularly the word “now”—and ran with it, gleefully proclaiming the “End of MU in 2016,” “CIOs Celebrate End of MU,” “MU on Deathwatch,” etc. It was easy to believe that Slavitt was predicting the demise of MU to be imminent since the stated topic of his talk was “policy areas that will affect the healthcare sector in 2016.” However, in Tuesday’s CMS Blog, Slavitt—writing with Karen DeSalvo—walked his statement back a bit. That said, this is still quite significant news: CMS has formally acknowledged what Slavitt himself referred to as the frustration and burden that physicians have been dealing with since the start of MU.

The key phrase in his statement about MU is “as it has existed.” MU is to be, in Slavitt’s words, “replaced with something better”—i.e., a new and improved version of itself. It is not going away. We already knew that MU had been identified as an integral part of a new program called MIPS under MACRA, the regulations for which are still being written by CMS. MACRA, the legislation that replaces the Medicare Fee Schedule’s SGR calculation, becomes effective in 2017, with a new schedule of payment adjustments (a.k.a. incentives and penalties) beginning in 2019.

Slavitt’s “announcement” was clouded by uncertainty, but was greeted, nevertheless, with great jubilation and high expectations, some of which were dashed by the clarifications published in the subsequent CMS Blog. In his speech, Slavitt had provided little insight into exactly how MU will be restructured. It begged the questions: Will the changes to the requirements be radical enough to be perceived by physicians as “something better?” What will become of the Stage 3 Rule, which is currently undergoing finalization and is due to go into effect in no later than 2018? And, will the MU penalties scheduled for 2017 and 2018 remain in effect or be eliminated? The CMS Blog answered some of these questions, to the disillusionment of many providers:

  • The current law requires that we continue to measure the meaningful use of ONC Certified Health Information Technology under the existing set of standards.
  • We encourage you to look for the MACRA regulations this year; in the meantime, our existing regulations—including meaningful use Stage 3—are still in effect.

Despite the myriad details yet to be determined, what we do know about the future is that physicians will increasingly be rewarded for quality over quantity of care. Therefore, a critical component of the new government programs will be the demonstration and reporting of improved patient outcomes (most likely in PQRS fashion). We can also be confident that MACRA (and any new version of MU it contains) will demand heightened interoperability and patient engagement, and physicians will have to meet requirements that support these goals.

The question of timing notwithstanding, should you be excited about this announcement? I would suggest cautiously so. We are optimistic that the anticipated changes will bring some relief from the unnecessary administrative burdens with which physicians have been struggling and let them get back to focusing on the practice of medicine. But unless concomitant changes are forthcoming on ONC’s side to streamline the excessive EHR certification requirements on the books for 2017/2018, EHR developers and vendors will still not have the necessary time or freedom to focus on innovations that would deliver the efficiencies and clinical benefits that would be of maximum value to physicians and their patients.

As always, SRS will keep you up to date on all developments in this area as they are revealed over the next few months. Please feel free to contact Lynn Scheps, Vice President, Government Affairs, if you have any questions.

Can Innovation Be the Cure?

Khal Rai

Khal Rai

Senior Vice President, Development at SRS Health
Khal oversees the Software Engineering, Business Analysis, Quality Assurance, and Product Management teams at SRS. His 17+ years’ experience in software development and healthcare IT have resulted in a true passion for collaborating with customers, then translating their needs into innovative solutions and better service experiences. He believes that motivated employees and satisfied customers are keys to maintaining business success. He has a B.S. degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Cincinnati, and an M.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University.
Khal Rai

Latest posts by Khal Rai (see all)

clock-blogTechnology has revolutionized almost everything. From the way we consume music to how we engage in commerce, the entire experience has been dramatically transformed to make our lives better, more efficient, and in some instances to provide us with services that we could only have imagined just a few years ago. Consider how we currently use GPS in our cars versus how we navigated to our destinations just a decade or so ago. However, Healthcare Information Technology (HIT), and EHR in particular, has been one of the few industries that has not taken full advantage of the digital revolution.

Despite this, I believe that all is not lost. Although EHR solutions remain highly inefficient, I am convinced that many real, practical problems that couldn’t otherwise be solved in the analog world—such as identification of drug interactions, clinical-decision support, and machine learning to identify result-driven workflows—are now ripe to be addressed by digital technology.

Why now? The answer might surprise you—it can, at least partially, be credited to the meaningful use regulations. Don’t get me wrong, the negative unintended consequences of the MU programs have been well documented, from the inefficiencies and overhead burdens it has created for healthcare professionals, to the consolidation of the EHR industry, to the commoditization of EHR. There are plenty of cons to go around, but there are pros that, if leveraged properly, could form the foundation that the industry needs to achieve the ultimate goal of better outcomes and reasonable costs for everyone. What are some of these advantages? Patient charts are finally in some type of digital format, information sharing is beginning to be a reality, and interoperability among various systems is not just a buzzword that you read in articles and blog posts and hear at conferences—vendors are now allocating big dollars towards achieving it.

Make no mistake: healthcare professionals will always be at the center of the decision tree when it comes to how you and I are treated for medical issues, but leveraging advancements in computer science such as artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive algorithms can support more informed decision making. With AI, the abundance of data, and the right tools to analyze it, workflows can be better adapted to each professional’s specialty and needs, patients can engage in their healthcare, and treatment plans can be better optimized.

Today, many healthcare professionals hate their EHRs, and over 40% say that “EHRs interfere with the doctor-patient relationship.” It’s time we take on this issue. If providers, vendors, and patients join forces, we might be able to unleash the next generation of solutions and supercharge the healthcare digital revolution. I believe innovation is the just the cure we’ve been searching for!

What innovators are you looking for? What HIT innovation would you like to see?

Cultivating Innovation – One Hack at a Time

Ryan Newsome

Ryan Newsome

Vice President of Software Engineering at SRS Health
Prior to joining SRS almost 10 years ago, Ryan started his career as a software engineer for Map Info/Pitney Bowes. Throughout the years Ryan has been an expert in all things web, interoperability, and in agile leadership. He currently oversees all of product engineering at SRS and has led SRS’ transition to an Agile/Scrum Development Methodology. In his free time, you can find Ryan either skiing, cycling or spending time with his family. Fun Fact: Ryan played Division 1 Soccer at Sienna where he attended on a scholarship. Goal!
Ryan Newsome

Latest posts by Ryan Newsome (see all)

HackathonNo lazy hazy days of summer for SRS. This week SRS is hosting its inaugural annual Summer Hackathon. What is a hackathon? A hackathon is an event for computer engineers, programmers, designers, and other creatives from across the company to collaborate in the design and build of new products and/or features within a finite amount of time. The word hackathon is a portmanteau of the words “hack” and “marathon.” “Hack” is used in the sense of exploratory programming activities, and “marathon” is used to convey the intensity, competiveness, and focus required to deliver a working solution in a short period of time.

So why hack? These intense tech benders create a venue for self-expression, creativity, and innovation leveraging technology and collaboration. It allows us to approach challenges differently, which can result in innovative ideas and solutions to existing and future problems in healthcare. In fact, hackathon ideas often turn into real-world products and features.

The theme for this year’s Summer Hackathon is based on healthcare productivity. We received over 40 ideas from across the organization—ranging from existing product line enhancements to new product lines based on emerging industry trends. Out of all the ideas submitted, the product development team has selected 15 ideas to pursue. Each team will demo their concepts in a “science fair” style format at the conclusion of the event. Prizes and recognition will be awarded based on presentation, creativity, and impact on healthcare productivity.

The team is very excited about our first hackathon. We believe investing in innovation is paramount to our clients’ success, and leveraging tools like hackathons to foster and cultivate innovation will ultimately provide premier creative solutions that will drive value for our clients and their patients.

It all starts with an idea… any ideas to share?