Part I: 5 Significant Healthcare Public Policy Trends for 2015

As we head toward HIMSS in Chicago next month, it’s a good time to take a look at the significant policy issues that will shape the future of health IT. While we will see tweaks to important legislation and regulation, the major public policy impacts that I envision for 2015 and even 2016 will revolve around EHR meaningful use, interoperability and most importantly in my book and strategy, alternative payment and care delivery models. Yes, ICD-10 is in there too but literally for how many years can we talk about that?

In this two-part blog series, I’ll look at the five issues that I see as priorities. Today’s topics: meaningful use and interoperability.

EHR Meaningful Use
EHR meaningful use will almost certainly grab the biggest headlines throughout the year as we just saw with the popular CMS announcement of the delay in the Medicare EHR meaningful use attestation for the 2014 reporting year, whereas eligible professionals now have until March 20, 2015.

There is also a new EHR meaningful use rule expected this spring that is intended to be responsive to provider concerns about software implementation, information exchange readiness as well as be reflective of developments in the industry and progress toward program goals achieved since the program began in 2011.

Here are a few highlights:

  • Shorten the EHR reporting period in 2015 to 90 days to accommodate these changes
  • Realign hospital EHR reporting periods to the calendar year to allow eligible hospitals more time to incorporate 2014 Edition software into their workflows and to better align with other CMS quality programs
  • Modify other aspects of the program to match long-term goals, reduce complexity, and lessen providers’ reporting burdens

Interoperability and Data Exchange

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) released its shared interoperability Roadmap on January 30.

The ONC sees health IT as an important contributor to improving health outcomes, improving health care quality and lowering health care costs. They further state that health IT should facilitate the secure, efficient and effective sharing and use of electronic health information when and where it is needed.

Here are a few highlights:

  • ONC suggests that the community must expand its focus beyond institutional care delivery and health care providers, to a broad view of person-centered health
  • Healthcare is being transformed to deliver care and services in a person-centered manner and is increasingly provided through community and home-based services that are less costly and more convenient for individuals and caregivers
  • The Roadmap Identifies Four Critical Near-Term Actions for Enabling Interoperability
    • Establish a coordinated governance framework and process for nationwide health IT interoperability
    • Improve technical standards and implementation guidance for sharing and using a common clinical data set
    • Enhance incentives for sharing electronic health information according to common technical standards, starting with a common clinical data set
    • Clarify privacy and security requirements that enable interoperability

A personal favorite inside the Roadmap is the call for alignment of private payer efforts with CMS policies and programs, including incentives for health information exchange and e-clinical quality measures that will enable the three- and six-year goals in the Roadmap. This is a key component that will garner a lot of broad stakeholder support including the critical support of caregivers and IT professionals who struggle to participate in quality and incentive programs due to their lack of coordination and ability to report on measures.

The ONC did create a terrific infographic that details this journey as well. Public comments on the ONC Interoperability Roadmap are open until April 3, 2015.

What questions about EHR or interoperability do you have?

Watch for the second part of this blog series to be posted soon.       

As a healthcare innovation executive and strategist, Justin is a corporate, board and policy advisor who also serves as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence with the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC). In addition, Mr. Barnes is Chairman Emeritus of the HIMSS EHR Association as well as Co-Chairman of the Accountable Care Community of Practice. Barnes has appeared in more than 1,000 journals, magazines and broadcast media outlets relating to national leadership of healthcare and health IT. Barnes also recently launched the weekly radio show, “This Just In.”