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Verma: CMS Makes Strides in Patient-Centered Care, Medicare Reform

CMS Administrator Seema Verma outlined the recent proposals for patient-centered care and Medicare reform the agency has made this year.

cms patient-centered care

Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- CMS is making progressing in its mission to fulfill patient needs and drive patient-centered care through various new Medicare policies, agency Administrator Seema Verma said in a speech at the Commonwealth Club of California.

“CMS’s Central mission is to transform the health care delivery system to one that moves away from delivering volume of services to one that delivers value for patients – one that provides high quality accessible care, at the lowest cost,” Verma said in a transcript of the speech. “And while many that have come before me have shared this vision, what is different now, is how we get there.”

At the center of the agency’s efforts is the idea of patient empowerment and patient-centricity, Verma said before reviewing the changes CMS has made throughout recent months. Between new health IT investments, calls for payment changes, and regulatory cuts, each of the agency’s efforts has prioritized the patient and the provider.

“We will transform the individual patient into a consumer of healthcare – one that is empowered to shop for the provider that delivers the best care at the lowest price,” Verma asserted. “As the American patient is seeking care, they will seek providers that deliver innovative, transformative care, those that leverage the technological efficiencies that we have seen from other industries”

Since the start of the year, CMS has proposed price transparency requirements for hospitals, as well as for pharmaceutical companies.

READ MORE: CMS Proposed Rule to Let Patients Access Care at Preferred Sites

Additionally, the agency has made an effort to redesign its health IT programs to put patients in charge of their own health data. Past and current models are reportedly facilitating the archaic use of paper records, which are cumbersome for patients. When a patient cannot easily access and interact with her medical records, she cannot become activated in her own care, Verma suggested.

“The use of Electronic Health Records has merely replaced paper silos with electronic ones, while providers, and the patients they serve, still have difficulty obtaining health records,” Verma wrote. “We must drive our system to an interoperable one where IT systems work seamlessly with each other, just as cell phones work today. This will allow patients to take their data with them as they move through the health care system and ensure that their providers have all of the information possible to make the right diagnosis and treatment for their patients.”

To this end, CMS created the MyHealthEData initiative. Previously, CMS maintained numerous penalties and incentives that worked to underscore the importance of patient data ownership, all to varying success. The MyHealthEData initiative has similar end goals, but aims to create a culture of patient data access that is long-lasting.

Additionally, the agency added MyHealthEData provisions that would allow patients to access their claims data and send that medical information to the clinical provider of their choosing.

CMS is working to make other forms of health IT more patient-centric, as it has recently announced better reimbursements for remote patient monitoring and telehealth services. Such provisions will pay providers for virtual check-ins, secure texting, and other IT tools.

READ MORE: CMS Adds CHIO Position to Support Patient Engagement Tech Push

In the same announcement, CMS said it was expanding the list of Medicare covered services, such as transportation for elderly or disabled populations, a social determinant of health that affects millions of patients annually.

Verma also discussed payment proposals that would both create more price competition in healthcare and allow providers to handle their own medical budgets for their patients. Such proposals should lower healthcare costs and ensure that expenditures are being put toward things that add to a quality care encounter for patients, she said.

“This administration is dedicated to putting patients first, to be empowered consumers of health care that have the information they need to be engaged and active decision-makers in their care,” Verma explained. “Through this empowerment, there will be a competitive advantage for providers that deliver coordinated, quality care, at the best value, to attract patients who are shopping for value.”

The Administrator also noted the regulatory cuts CMS has made in an effort to reduce regulatory burdens. Regulatory burden adds to clinician burnout, Verma said, and distracts providers from making a genuine, personal connection with their patients.

“As part of the President’s Cut the Red Tape Initiative, CMS launched our Patients Over Paperwork Initiative to reduce unnecessary and redundant regulations so that doctors could focus on their primary mission – taking care of their patients,” Verma said.

READ MORE: CMS Medicare Proposal to Boost Patient-Provider Relationships

Patients “must have more access to and attention from her doctor,” she continued. “We’ve all been to the doctor and – let’s be honest; there is more ‘screen time’ going on than ‘eye time.’ And all of us at some point have waited weeks or missed work or undergone some other inconvenience so that we can drive to the doctor, fill out paperwork, and watch our doctor stare at a computer screen.”

To this end, CMS has created Meaningful Measures, a set of clinical quality measures that aim to maintain a high level of care while getting rid of measures that are duplicative or unnecessary.

The future of Medicaid is the patient, Verma concluded. By creating measures that allow providers to focus on the patient and help patients take ownership of their own care, CMS will be able to deliver on the promise of patient-centered healthcare.

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