Is Meaningful Use going away? Yes and no

Healthcare providers spoke, and Andy Slavitt listened. The acting head of CMS recently addressed the J.P. Morgan Annual Health Care Conference, and announced that "The Meaningful Use program as it has existed, will now be effectively over and replaced with something better."

This statement could appear to answer the prayers of clinicians across the country who have railed against the onerous requirements of Meaningful Use since its inception.

While it may be true that the end of Meaningful Use could be seen as positive for those who saw compliance with the program as a distraction from providing meaningful care, it's important to note that the essence of MU still exists under the 2015 Medicare Access & CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA).

As Mr. Slavitt said, "At its most basic level (MACRA) is a program that brings pay for value into the mainstream through something called the Merit-based Incentive Program, which compels us to measure physicians on four categories: quality, cost, the use of technology, and practice improvement."

Incorporating measures regarding technology use under one, comprehensive incentive program will hopefully reduce reporting and compliance burden on providers and most importantly, lowering barriers to achieving the Triple Aim —while promoting the often mentioned 4th aim of provider satisfaction.

Through MACRA, CMS appears to be placing more emphasis on delivering better outcomes rather than on driving technology adoption, aligning to those stakeholders who have long embraced the move from traditional fee-for-service to value-based care initiatives.

From our perspective, this move makes sense. At IBM Watson Health, a key focus for our analytics and automation solutions is to help enable healthcare providers to improve quality, reduce burden and cost, while improving outcomes for stakeholders, whether the patient, payer or plan.

We also applaud Mr. Slavitt's strong comments about another significant issue of concern to many providers. . "We are deadly serious about interoperability," he said. "Technology companies that look for ways to practice 'data blocking' in opposition to new regulations will find that it won't be tolerated."

At IBM Watson Health, we do not assume interoperability will occur overnight and have built solutions to promote harmonization across disparate systems to assist providers as they await true interoperability.

Another point that came through loud and clear in Mr. Slavitt's remarks was this: value-based care is here to stay. In announcing the 21 participants in the Next Generation Accountable Care Organization (ACO) model, he reaffirmed the CMS commitment of increasingly shifting financial risk to organizations who provide compelling plans of how they will use traditional care models, telemedicine, home visits, and direct consumer incentive and engagement options to reduce cost while promoting outcomes. The new participants will bring the number of ACOs to 475, in nearly every state, resulting in a fifth of all Medicare Fee-For-Service beneficiaries being part of an ACO.

We at Watson Health believe that as the industry transitions to more meaningful outcomes rather than just meaningful use, it is more important than ever that healthcare stakeholders seek the right partners. Those who excel at driving high quality outcomes and reducing unnecessary cost by integrating complex data, providing advanced analytics and generating actionable insights will be in a position to achieve success in our evolving environment. And importantly, powerful partnerships will enable engagement between patients and providers, while helping to foster both patient and provider satisfaction. And that will demonstrate truly meaningful use of technology.

Anil Jain, MD, FACP, is the Co-Founder, Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Explorys, an IBM Company

Karen Handmaker, MPP, is Vice President, Population Health Strategies, at Phytel, an IBM Company

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

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