Recent remarks made by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt at a healthcare conference indicated that CMS will be ending the “meaningful use” electronic health record (“EHR”) Incentive Program in 2016, five years ahead of its original final end date of 2021. Acting Administrator Slavitt did not elaborate on the specifics of what will replace meaningful use, but stated it would likely be tied to the implementation of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (“MACRA”) and would include various streamlined quality reporting programs. MACRA emphasizes a new Merit-Based Incident Payment System and alternative payment models, and according to Acting Administrator Slavitt, this new law warrants a new streamlined regulatory approach to EHR as well.

Slavitt’s comments echo the sentiments expressed in CMS’s meaningful use stage 3 final rule issued in October 2015, in which CMS stated: “This rule moves us beyond the staged approach of ‘meaningful use’ by 2018 and helps us collectively move forward to a system based on the quality of care delivered, as opposed to quantity… We will use this feedback to inform future policy developments for the EHR Incentive Programs, as well as consider it during rulemaking to implement MACRA….”

In his recent comments, Slavitt stated CMS has been working for several months with physician organizations across many communities, the American Medical Association, and other stakeholders to revamp the meaningful use programs while staying true to its initial objectives of encouraging eligible healthcare providers to adopt, implement, upgrade, and most importantly, meaningful use, a certified EHR technology to advance the collaboration of healthcare providers and improve outcomes through more coordinated care to patients.

As for the forthcoming program, Slavitt said CMS would focus on shifting away from rewarding providers for the use of technology and instead focus on achieving better patient outcomes. He also stated CMS recognizes the importance of healthcare providers’ desire to customize their practices’ EHR goals and the need to encourage EHR technology companies to create programs that truly work for the individual practices, and do not just cater to the government’s requirements.

More details about the new meaningful use program can be anticipated “over the next few months” according to CMS. In the meantime, eligible providers seeking meaningful use EHR Incentive Program payments should stay the course until instructed otherwise by CMS.