By this point, you may have already heard that the future of Meaningful Use (MU)—at least as healthcare providers once knew it—has officially sunsetted. If you’re a PT, OT, or SLP, you might respond to that news with something like, “Yeah—so?” After all, rehab therapists were never eligible for MU anyway. But, just because the MU program is being consolidated—along with the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) and the Value-Based Payment Modifier (VM)—into the new Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), it doesn’t mean it’s dead for good. In fact, under MIPS, the program formerly known as MU will evolve to serve a slightly different goal: helping patients achieve better outcomes. Technology will still be at the forefront of the revamped version of MU, but this time around, rehab therapists can’t just turn a blind eye to the requirements—at least not in the long term. After all, therapists are set to become MIPS-eligible in 2019. So, at some point in the next year, rehab therapy providers would be wise to embrace a new take on an old UPS slogan and ask themselves, “What can my EMR do for me?”

Regulatory Roundup: 6 Challenges Confronting Rehab Therapists in 2018 - Regular BannerRegulatory Roundup: 6 Challenges Confronting Rehab Therapists in 2018 - Small Banner

EMRs are crucial to MIPS success.

Because rehab therapists aren’t eligible to participate in MIPS during the program’s first two years, they’re under no obligation to report quality data in 2017 and 2018. But that doesn’t mean therapists should put off learning the ins and outs of MIPS. After all, the requirements may force some therapists to adopt—or switch to—a new EMR. That’s because MIPS, much like the original MU program, relies heavily on the efficiency of intelligent EMRs to collect and transfer patient data.

Why Efficiency Matters

As we previously reported, CMS will allow therapists to participate in MIPS during the 2017 and 2018 reporting years on a voluntary basis—and, candidly, it’s an opportunity PTs shouldn’t ignore. That’s because collecting patient data on your own terms—without the threat of a penalty—allows you to fine-tune your quality reporting practices prior to 2019, when it becomes an industry-wide requirement. It also allows you a chance to determine whether your existing technology (i.e., your EMR) not only meets MIPS requirements (including the ability to measure meaningful outcomes), but also allows you to comply without threatening the quality—or efficiency—of patient care delivery. After all, the overarching objective of all reform legislation is to move the US healthcare system to a value-based care paradigm.

Why Providers Should Care

Rehab therapists who are still documenting on paper or with a subpar EMR should heed the above cues, as providers who aren’t aware of—or who straight-up ignore—the benefits of scalable technology run the risk of fouling up their documentation process and potentially getting audited. Not only that, but using outdated and inefficient documentation practices “impedes the advancement of healthcare IT and the large-scale improvement of patient care.” Thus, in addition to ensuring their EMR checks all the necessary MIPS boxes, providers should also make sure their software:

  • Is web-based, so the information is accessible by clinicians in any setting and from any location. Web-based platforms also foster interoperability.
  • Provides outcomes tests and data points that practitioners across the healthcare continuum can access and interpret.
  • Accounts for all rehab-related compliance regulations.
  • Has a proven track record for improving patient care through technology.

Outcomes tracking is crucial to optimizing patient care.

MACRA represents another step forward in the CMS-led push to achieve the Triple Aim: providing higher quality care at a lower cost with better patient satisfaction. As such, patient outcomes data is more important now than it has ever been. And even though MU is going away, technology will still play a major role in providers’ ability to demonstrate stronger patient outcomes. In fact, some experts argue that MU may have had an adverse impact on providers’ ability to demonstrate meaningful use of technology, because EMR software vendors focused too heavily on simply checking all of the MU boxes rather than on achieving the ultimate goal: enhancing patient care. Today, providers have an opportunity to put patients back at the forefront—and that’s especially true for rehab therapists, who have ample time to ensure their clinical technology will satisfy MIPS requirements and, more importantly, empower them to deliver the best possible care.

How do you envision MACRA and MIPS—including relics from the MU program—impacting your practice on the technology and quality reporting fronts? Do you believe this legislation is a move in the right direction? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

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