The 'doc fix' bill and health IT: 5 things to know

The Senate passed a bipartisan "doc fix" bill Tuesday to repeal the sustainable growth rate formula that has stalled Medicare reimbursement cuts to physicians for nearly 20 years.

Called the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, the proposed legislation also includes provisions that go beyond amending how Medicare pays physicians. Here are five things to know about how this legislation affects health IT.

1. The proposed legislation outlines ways to promote the interoperability of EHRs and "declares it a national objective" to achieve interoperability through certified technology by Dec. 31, 2018. If this objective is not achieved, the bill says the HHS secretary will have one year to submit a report to Congress identifying barriers to and recommendations for achieving interoperability.

2. The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act also prohibits the blocking of information sharing by amending the portion of the Social Security Act discussing incentives for the meaningful use incentive program to say a meaningful user is one that not only demonstrates using meaningful EHR technology, but also demonstrates that the professional has not knowingly or willingly taken action to limit or restrict the interoperability of the certified EHR technology. The same goes for eligible hospitals.

3. The bill also directs the comptroller general of the United States to conduct a study on telehealth services and remote patient monitoring with regards to using such technologies in the Medicare program, reimbursement for such services and the greater affects such technology can have on payment and delivery systems.

4. The proposed legislation directs the HHS secretary to establish a Merit-based Incentive Payment system where eligible professionals will receive annual payment adjustments based on quality indicators of performance. The secretary will then have to determine whether a MIPS eligible professional is also a meaningful EHR user.

5. The bill also seeks to expand sharing of and access to Medicare claims data for quality reporting purposes under CMS' Qualified Entity Program which allows qualified entities to access and analyze the data for quality purposes.

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