Final Rule on ACOs encourages EHR adoption but eliminates “meaningful use” requirement

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced today, October 20, 2011, that the use of certified electronic health records (EHRs) will be the highest-weighted quality measure for an Accountable Care Organization (ACO) under the new Medicare Shared Savings Program.

ACOs are designed to encourage primary care doctors, specialists, hospitals, and other health care providers to coordinate their care. The CMS Final Rule on ACOs bases the amount of shared savings that an ACO may receive for its performance on four domains of quality: 1) quality standards on patient experience; 2) care coordination and patient safety; 3) preventive health; and 4) at-risk populations.  To earn shared savings the first performance year, providers must report across all four domains of quality, which include a total of 33 quality measures.  Providers will begin to share in savings based on how well they perform on 23 of the 33 quality measures in the second performance year and on 32 of the 33 measures in the third performance year. 

Measure 20 of the 33 quality measures requires ACOs to report the percentage of primary care providers (PCPs) who successfully qualify for an EHR Incentive Program payment.  CMS expanded the scope of PCPs who can be counted in this measure by eliminating the requirement that the PCP be a “meaningful EHR user” as defined in 42 C.F.R. § 495.4 of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009.  CMS stated that it “decided to . . . expand [measure 20] to include any PCP who successfully qualifies for an EHR Incentive Program incentive rather than only including those deemed meaningful users.”

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