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AAFP asks CMS, ONC to eliminate health IT utilization measures

Referencing the administrative burden for physicians, the group also recommends CMS limit evaluation and management measures.

Jessica Davis, Associate Editor

The American Academy of Family Physicians is asking the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to help combat the administrative burden on family physicians by eliminating all health IT utilization measures under MIPS.

Instead, the AAFP said the agency should focus on interoperability efforts that enforce information blocking prohibition.

However, as use of health IT utilization measures are legally mandated, CMS and ONC should work with Congress to chip away at the "unfortunate and outdated approach."

Specifically, the AAFP said CMS should assess the policies that mandate – and often financially penalize – providers on their use of health IT to determine the real-world benefit.

"Policies should support the varying needs of the diverse populations for which physicians care and not establish a generic, one-size-fits-all model, as it leads to system waste," AAFP Board Chair John Meigs Jr., MD, wrote.

CMS should also limit the evaluation and management measures, which "do little to support patient care" and are more of "a crutch to justify billing levels." Meigs explained these guidelines were drafted with paper documentation in mind and don't reflect EHR use or potential.

"Guidelines also hinder interoperability by requiring the capture of clinically irrelevant information that is subsequently exchanged," Meigs wrote.

To focus more on interoperability and information blocking policies, CMS should ensure standards-based capabilities are in place for information exchange. Further, those policies should align financial incentives to fuel interoperability, and penalize bad actors who block information sharing.

The AAFP also wants CMS to create more standardized clinical data models, as well as more insistent quality measure reporting. Providers also need more transparent policy information and payer pricing, especially as providers make the shift to capacitated care.

"The AAFP maintains that the current regulatory framework with which primary care physicians must comply is daunting and often demoralizing," Meigs wrote. "As a result, physicians spend needless hours reviewing documents and literally checking boxes to meet the requirements of each health insurance plan."

"It's unfortunate and avoidable that the regulatory framework for physician practices has reduced face-to-face time with patients and increased operating costs at a time when physician payment is stagnant," he added.

The AAFP sent its recommendations in response to the agency's request for proposals on how to simplify regulation. The group intends to present these ideas on Feb. 22 during the CMS and ONC joint meeting on reducing clinician burden.

Twitter: @JessieFDavis
Email the writer: jessica.davis@himssmedia.com

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