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Groups Urge Robust Patient Engagement in Stage 3 Meaningful Use

The Consumer Partnership for eHealth says CMS must maintain its stance on patient engagement in Stage 3 meaningful use, calling on more robust program requirements.

By Sara Heath

The Consumer Partnership for eHealth (CPeH) and two dozen other industry groups are urging CMS  to maintain robust patient engagement requirements as a part of Stage 3 meaningful use, according to a press release.

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In a letter to HHS Secretary  Sylvia M. Burwell and CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt, CPeH argued that Stage 3 meaningful use will need tough patient engagement requirements if the healthcare industry is going to successfully move toward patient-centered care.

“The national imperative to transform our healthcare system into one that delivers better care and better outcomes at lower cost cannot possibly succeed without the active engagement of patients and family caregivers,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, which leads CPeH.

CPeH, alongside 24 other stakeholders, explained that it was perplexed as to why CMS appears to be walking back many of its patient engagement requirements, reverting to the standards held in Stage 2 meaningful use.

These actions are contradictory, considering the emphasis CMS and HHS put on patient-centered care in its proposed MACRA rule, the signatories asserted. The letter argued that patient engagement requirements should be consistent through all federal incentive programs, including both MACRA and Stage 3 meaningful use.

“HHS’s national initiatives on delivery system reform cannot possibly succeed without active engagement of patients and family caregivers, and the ability to access and share health information online is a critical tool for so many,” CPeH wrote.

Specifically, CPeH called on CMS to amend its patient access to health data requirements. Instead of requiring providers extend access to at least one patient, the organization said CMS should keep the threshold at five percent of patients.

The organization also suggested CMS revise its requirements for using clinical decision support for patient engagement. Stage 3 meaningful use should require providers to use CDS to better engage patients in shared decision-making.

Lastly, CPeH suggested CMS maintain the full-year reporting period for 2016 rather than adopt a 90-day reporting period. Upholding a full-year reporting period may potentially help providers make better patient engagement habits and more permanent adjustments to their clinical workflows.

The signatories noted that these reported walk-backs may have been a result of the significant resistance CMS faced after it published the Stage 3 meaningful use final rule. Several industry bodies asserted that the final rule included requirements that were too burdensome and difficult for providers and hospitals to feasibly accomplish.

CPeH contended that these “burdens” should instead be viewed as progress.

“Far from being administrative burdens or inconveniences, these activities are integral to developing partnerships among patients, their family caregivers and their care team in the mutual pursuit of better care and improved health outcomes,” the organization said.

These measures may be fundamental to the overall movement toward patient-centered care and are an impetus for getting providers involved.

“Without relevant measures that hold providers accountable for a small percentage of their patients’ accessing, using or sharing their health information, CMS retreats from the activities that hold the most promise for improving the quality of care and health outcomes for patients,” the organization wrote.

“Without sustained progress on these activities that promote information access and exchange among patients and providers, hospitals will not be prepared to meet the demands of new models of care delivery and payment that depend upon greater patient engagement and care coordination.”

Going forward, it still may be useful for providers to consider patient engagement measures. Beyond those requirements included in the proposed MACRA rule and meaningful use, the industry is shifting toward patient-centered models. Through better patient engagement strategies, providers may be more poised to be successful in those models.

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