AMA Calls for More Meaningful Use Flexibility in Letter to CMS, ONC

The strict rules of the Meaningful Use (MU) program are preventing physicians from participating, according to the American Medical Association, which is calling for more flexibility and some relief from penalties.

The strict rules of the Meaningful Use (MU) program are preventing physicians from participating, according to the American Medical Association (AMA), which is calling for more flexibility and some relief from penalties.

The AMA sent a blueprint for the future of the MU program, which included electronic health record (EHR) functionality recommendations, in a letter to CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Stage 3 is scheduled for 2016.

"Physicians will always embrace technology that can help them provide better care for their patients and foster innovation, but improvements must be made to the Meaningful Use program in order for those goals to be achieved," AMA President Robert M. Wah, MD, said in a statement. "We can no longer just delay the program from taking full effect. We must make the necessary changes to ensure that the Meaningful Use program requirements are in fact meaningful and deliver—not hinder—the intended improvements in patient care and practice efficiencies."

AMA’s recommendations include:

  • Adopting a more flexible approach for meeting MU to allow more physicians to successfully participate.
  • Better aligning quality measure requirements, including reducing the reporting burden on physicians and helping relieve them from overlapping penalties.
  • Ensuring quality measures and clinical decision support within the program are current to improve care for patients and ensure physicians are following the latest evidence.
  • Restructuring EHR certification to focus on key areas like interoperability.

Although more than 78% of physicians are using an EHR, thousands are not participating in the MU program. Dr Wah blames this discrepancy on the program’s “all-or-nothing” approach. He added that unnecessary penalties against physicians hinder their ability to purchase new technology and can prevent them from participating in innovative payment and delivery models.

The AMA has called for more flexibility in the MU program, including removing penalties for physicians who do not meet 100% of the program’s requirements. Instead, the AMA is recommending that Stage 3 include just 10 required measures, and no financial penalties for physicians who meet at least half of the requirements.

"The whole point of the EHR incentive program was to build an interoperable health information technology infrastructure that would allow for the routine exchange of important medical information across settings and providers and put medical decision-making tools in the hands of physicians and patients, yet that vision is not being realized and the lack of interoperability is stifling quality improvement," Dr Wah said.