Four Steps to Value-Based Care Success in 2017 Under the MACRA Final Rule

Guest post by Richard Loomis, MD, chief medical officer and VP of informatics, Practice Fusion.

Richard Loomis, MD
Richard Loomis, MD

If you bill Medicare, changes are coming in 2017 that may affect your reimbursements. Existing programs such as the electronic health record (EHR) Incentive Program (meaningful use) and the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) are being replaced by a new payment system called the Quality Payment Program (QPP), which is a complex, multi-track program that will adjust payments from -9 percent to +37 percent by 2022. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently released the final rule that will implement the QPP as part of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA).

While the 2,300-page final rule outlining the new program is complex, successful participation in 2017 doesn’t have to be. Here are some tips on how to participate in the QPP starting January 1, 2017 to minimize the risk of any negative adjustment to your Medicare Part B payments beginning in 2019.

Step 1: Check if you qualify to participate

CMS has expanded the range of clinicians able to participate in the QPP compared to Meaningful Use (MU). Eligible clinicians now include physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists and certified registered nurse anesthetists. However, you’re excluded from participating in 2017 if:

Step 2: Choose your participation track

Although the QPP will begin January 1, 2017, there will be a ramp-up period with less financial risk for eligible clinicians in at least the first two years of the program. CMS designated 2017 as a transition year to help providers get started in either of the two participation tracks: MIPS or the Advanced Alternative Payment Models (Advanced APMs).

MIPS

MIPS streamlines current Medicare value and quality program measures — PQRS, Value Modifier (VM) Program and MU — into a single MIPS composite performance score that will be used to adjust payments. All eligible clinicians who are not participating in an Advanced APM should report under MIPS in 2017. Conversely, you’re not required to participate in MIPS if you’re participating in an eligible Advanced APM, as described below. Some APMs, by virtue of their structure, are not considered Advanced APMs by CMS. If you participate in an APM that doesn’t qualify as an Advanced APM, it will increase your favorable scoring under the MIPS participation track.

Advanced APMs

APMs are new approaches to paying for medical care through Medicare that provide incentive payments to support high-quality and cost-efficient care. APMs can apply to a specific clinical condition, a care episode, or a population. The main difference between the MIPS and Advanced APM programs are that Advanced APMs require practices to take on more financial and technological risks.

Advanced APMs meet specific criteria from CMS. Those who participate in Advanced APMs, including   the Comprehensive Primary Care Plus (CPC+), may be determined to be qualifying APM participants (QPs), and receive the following benefits:

It’s important to note that if you stop participating in an Advanced APM during 2017, you should make sure you’ve seen enough patients or received enough payments through an Advanced APM to qualify for the five percent bonus. If you haven’t met these thresholds, you may need to participate in MIPS reporting to avoid a negative payment adjustment.

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Interoperability: The Promise of Healthcare

Guest post by Ryan Howard, CEO and founder, Practice Fusion.

Portrait of Ryan Howard CEO
Ryan Howard

How many doctors have you seen in your lifetime? Don’t know or remember? You’re not alone – the average American patient will see nearly 19 different doctors during their lifetime. Nineteen different offices. Nineteen different medical charts. Nineteen different phone numbers. Nineteen different calls to track down your records. Now, can you even remember your last five doctors?

The future: Imagine this, you visit your doctor – or any doctor for that matter – and they quickly pull up your medical history. Vaccinations when you were a child? Check. Currently on a hypertensive medication? Check. Pre-disposed to a medical condition? Yep, that’s in there, too. No more arriving 20 minutes early to the doctors’ office to fill out the industry-average seven pages of paper forms. Your records – past and present – are already being reviewed by your trusted provider.

Beyond the sheer convenience, the accuracy and completeness of having your entire medical history available at the fingertips of your provider can impact your well-being and scope of care. Can you accurately remember all procedures you’ve had? And when? Or all the medications you’ve ever taken? With dates? Imagine if you were a senior. Not just daunting, but nearly impossible. Instead of going over just snippets of what you actually remember, your doctor is empowered to holistically review your entire medical history with the potential to make more informed decisions about your health.

Seem like a pipedream? If you were to ask a mere decade ago, most would have agreed. As recently as 2007, 88 percent of physicians were still charting on paper. And those physicians on an EHR system – who were paying a premium – were almost exclusively using a localized, server based platform with no connectivity. For cost perspective, according to HealthIT.gov, the average upfront cost of implementing an EHR is $33,000 per provider plus an on-going fee of $4,000 yearly, a cost-prohibitive amount for most private practices.

Fast forward to 2009 and the passage of the HITECH Act which provided billions of dollars of incentives for providers to implement an electronic health record. In addition to the incentives, new vendors appeared on the market who provided electronic health record platforms completely free-of-charge, allowing providers to reinvest the incentives in their practice as additional staff, new equipment, etc.

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HIMSS15 Trade Show Vendor Highlight: Practice Fusion

In this series, we are featuring some of the thousands of vendors who will be participating in the HIMSS15 conference and trade show. Through it, we hope to offer readers a closer look at some of the solution providers who will either be in attendance – with a booth showcasing and displaying key products and offerings – or that will have a presence of some kind at the show – key executives in attendance or presenting, for example.

Hopefully this series will give you a bit more useful information about the companies that help make this event, and the industry as a whole, so exciting.

Elevator Pitch

Facilitating more than five million patient visits every month, Practice Fusion’s platform is the new gold standard for ambulatory EHR technology. We can support your organization’s goals for risk adjustment, accurate coding and coordinated care management—in real time and at scale. We also partner to support clinical programs in collaboration with our physicians to improve outcomes for patients at the population level. Finally, our connectivity services provide a single point of connection to our ecosystem of over 112,000 health care professionals nationwide.

About Statement

Practice Fusion is the #1 cloud-based electronic health record (EHR) platform for doctors and patients, with a mission of connecting doctors, patients and data to drive better health and save lives. A driving force in modernizing American health care, Practice Fusion is used by a community of more than 112,000 active medical professionals with over 100 million patient records under management.  In 2014, Practice Fusion’s EHR facilitated more than 56 million patient visits (approximately 6% of all ambulatory visits in the US) and is the fastest growing EHR in the US.

Founder’s Story

Founded in San Francisco in 2005 and bootstrapped in a Starbucks, Practice Fusion has grown dramatically, building the largest physician-patient community in the U.S.

Services and Products Offered 

Clinical data exchange, HCC code assist, digital care management

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Who’s Preparing for Meaningful Use Stage 2?

Interesting insight below from Practice Fusion about meaningful use stage 2 adoption trends, specifically state-by-state rates of effective EHR adoption. Am I surprised that large states like California and New York lag behind the rest of the country in EHR adoption progress? For some reason, I’m not really.

What surprises me here is that my native state of South Dakota leads every state in the country in the adoption of EHRs with Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and North Dakota all making the top 10.

I’m also surprised that no other state really comes close to So. Dak. Minnesota, the next closest state in level of adoption is a full 10 percent behind.

Nevertheless, what does this suggest about rural healthcare facilities? Do they need the money more than their urban counterparts? Does the technology make it easier for them to practice with such a dispersed population or are they just able to make the move more quickly because they are smaller, more agile facilities?

The last reason is less likely. I’d think it’s a combination of the first two points I make, and that they fee the technology makes it easier to communicate and track patient outcomes across their respective geographies.

I’d love your thoughts.

The second chart below tells which organizations are implementing specifically. It’s no surprise to me that family practice has a healthy lead.

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EHR Experiences: Dr. Lucy Hornstein, Valley Forge Family Practice

Dr. Lucy Hornstein
Dr. Lucy Hornstein

Dr. Lucy Hornstein, solo practitioner at Valley Forge Family Practice in Phoenixville, Penn., was not a proponent of electronic health records. An active physician blogger and published writer, she spent quite a few of her words on the technology’s uselessness.

They were expensive, overly complicated and tough to use and provided little return on the investment for users. Besides, most physicians, in her opinion, only implemented them because of meaningful use and the federal incentives they received for using them.

Paper, she had long decided, was good enough for her and during the first 21 years of practice in her own practice, she had no plans to change. It was only after the loss of one of her two staff members that she soon realized that she’d have to re-hire just to maintain her practice at its current load. However, that wasn’t an option for her. Neither, she thought, was adding an EHR to handle the management of the records because other than her perception of the technology, the self-described “dinosaur” didn’t have the budget for such an endeavor. She had zero for such technology.

Even if she had a change of heart and adopted the technology, she had not seen one system that was not cumbersome, not hard to use, intuitive to maneuver and or that offered her the option to meet the needs of her small practice while running the business efficiently.

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HIT Thought Leader Highlight: Dan Rodrigues, Kareo

HIT Thought Leader Highlight: Dan Rodrigues, Kareo
Dan Rodrigues

Dan Rodriques, CEO of Kareo, discusses entrepreneurism, healthcare IT innovation, Kareo’s move into electronic health records and the EHR hangover.

As an entrepreneur, what is your approach to leading and driving innovation?
I have always been driven, and I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur from a young age. Each of the three companies I have started came about for the same reason. I saw a problem and I wanted to fix it. I am a problem solver at heart and that is what drives innovation for me. I launched my first company, Scour, an Internet search engine, when I was 21. At that time, there wasn’t a way to search the web for multimedia content (photos, music, and video) and we developed Scour in response to that need. I had to learn about running a company on the job. I took what I learned with me on my next endeavor, which was a consulting firm. Each client brought a unique challenge with them and we developed technology solutions to the complex problems within their businesses. It was there that I started with a client in the healthcare industry. As I worked with that client, I began to see all the challenges facing healthcare and particularly small medical practices. This was the birth of Kareo.

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Why Don’t Vendors Partner to Build Interoperable Systems Before Mandates Force them To?

In a recent conversation with Steve Ferguson, vice president of Hello Health, he described how the company is identifying new revenue sources for practices while working to engage patients. Even though the company’s business model is one that sets it apart and helps it rival other free EHRs, like Practice Fusion, I left the conversation with him wondering why more venodrs weren’t trying the same thing as Hello Health: trying something no one in the market is trying to see, if by change, a little innovation helps pump some life into the HIT market.

Along the same lines, myself and thousands of others in HIT have wondered why systems are not interoperable and, for the most part, operate in silos that are unable to communicate with competing systems.

Certainly, there’s a case to be made for vendors protecting their footprints, and for growing them. In doing so, they like to keep their secrets close; it’s the a business environment after all and despite the number of conversations taking place by their PR folks, improving patient health outcomes comes in only second (or third) to making money.

However, let’s move closer to my point. Given the recent rumors that Cerner and McKesson are working on a joint agreement to enable cross-vendor, national health information exchange, I’m wondering: Why don’t other vendors partner now and begin to build interoperable systems.

According to the rumors, the deal, if completed, could shift the entire interoperable landscape for hospitals, physicians and patients. It would position Cerner, which has more EHR users, and McKesson, which has a strong HIE product in RelayHealth with a loyal user base, to take on Epic Systems, a leading EHR vendor.

An announcement is expected at HIMSS13.

Here’s why this is important news: Interoperability mandates are coming. Like most things, it’s really just a matter of time. Systems will be forced to communicate with other, competing systems. They should already. It’s actually a bit shocking that given the levels of reporting required of care givers, the push for access to information through initiatives like Blue Button and patient’s access to information through mobile technology that there’s not more openness in the market.

The Cerner/McKesson news is incredibly refreshing and worth a look. Two major competitors may be realizing that by partnering they’ll be better able to take on each company’s biggest competitor: Epic.

Imagine connected systems exchanging data. The thought alone would be marketable across several sectors of the healthcare landscape and the move worthy of reams of coverage, which would lead to great brand awareness for each and the change to do what all EHR companies aim for: To create thought leaders; to stand out; to set the market on its heels.

If nothing else the partner vendors would stand ahead of the pack when future interoperability mandates are enacted and will be seen as experts in the exchange game. Tongue and cheek aside, the idea really is a good one and with no one currently doing it, it’s a great opportunity for a couple of HIT companies to actually move change forward and create an environment where information can be easily exchanged across practices, across specialties and across  borders.

Then, perhaps, we’ll see a real commitment to improved patient health outcomes rather than them simply trying to improve bottom lines.

Though Much of the 2013 Transformation is Fueled by Government Initiatives, Healthcare is at a Tipping Point

Fifield

Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT

Guest post by: Lauren Fifield, senior health policy advisor, Practice Fusion

Many HIT vendors will be largely focused on major development efforts to meet 2014 edition certification requirements for meaningful use.  However, as Stage 2 measures aim at improving patient engagement, quality and interoperability, we may be surprised by the new technologies that existing and new companies develop to meet the requirements:

We’ll also see new industry movement toward improved patient safety through provider training, reporting and other efforts.  Thanks to the successful collaboration between vendors and the agencies that help providers achieve meaningful use, we expect the Food and Drug Administration to work with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to engage key stakeholders by addressing the 18-month study mandated in the FDA Safety and Innovation Act of June 2012.

Given the continued and ever-growing provider outcry to address the broken payment system, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) may finally develop plans to move to a reimbursement system that relies on quality and outcomes.  With the recent announcement of more than 106 new ACO contracts, growing provider participation in new payment models, and the new possibilities opened up by technology vendors, it may at last be time to put this broken system behind us.

Though much of the 2013 transformation is fueled by government initiatives, the healthcare industry is at a tipping point regardless of any push on Uncle Sam’s part. Patients will soon be expected to pay for more of their care, making consumer health tools, telehealth and personalized medicine more appealing and important. Providers tired of the payment system will partner with technologists and private payers to try alternative models and cash-based business.  And big data might just find a home amid all these new patient, provider and health system innovations.




If an EHR Company’s Business Model Can Be Beautiful, Hello Health May Be Hard to Turn Away From

Can a business model be beautiful? Yes, it can, according to Hello Health’s Steve Ferguson, vice president of marketing.

The business model, and the way things get done, at Hello Health are what set it apart from other electronic health records in the market place, Ferguson said.

Hello Health was built from the ground up and launched by the private company Myca in 2008. It made its meaningful use certified EHR available in 2011. The Hello Health system includes everything needed to run a small practice, the area of the ambulatory market in which the company focuses.

Originally designed for single doc practices, the system now scales up, with practices of as many as 10 physicians using it.

At its most basic, Hello Health is a web-based EHR and patient health record, and it’s free to for qualified physicians to use. A qualified practice is typically one with 1,500 active patients on its panel. Unlike Practice Fusion, another well-known free cloud-based electronic health record, it’s not powered by ads, but instead is a revenue source for practices as monthly access subscriptions can be sold to practices’ patients, allowing the patient to access the system’s patient portal, where their personal information is kept.

The patient subscription model allows patients to schedule appointments, view lab results, communicate with their physicians through the HIPAA-compliant portal and, in some cases, view their complete record including visit notes.

Steven Ferguson
Steve Ferguson, vice president of marketing at Hello Health

Those patients that don’t subscribe are still allowed limited access to the portal, but they can’t access all of the information available to them. Cost of monthly subscriptions range between $3 and $10, Ferguson said, but the average is closer to $5.

The annual revenue earned through patient subscriptions is $10,000 per practice, he said, with 30 percent of patients, on average, signing up in each of the practices Hello Health serves. In some cases, more than 50 percent of a practice’s patients have signed up for access to their health information.

Currently, the typical age of a Hello Health subscribing patient is 57 years old and has at least on chronic condition. The “indestructible” 30-something is less likely to subscribe to access to the portal, said Ferguson.

In some cases, patients are able to skip a practice visit or an in-office consult because of their prescription to Hello Health, Ferguson said, and practices are okay with it because they can still bill for the visit.

It’s a simple model, and with the number of portals currently available and the likelihood that access to them will increase alongside meaningful use stage 2, it’s a wonder why other vendors are not creating similar strategies.

“Companies are so in grained in the license model, and on paper it may seem easy to change, but it’s tough to change a business model,” Ferguson said.

Among another key difference between Hello Health and competitor systems is that it doesn’t charge for training and allows as much training as is needed so practice employees are comfortable using the system and are able to educate patients about the value of subscribing to the patient portal.

“Practices really have a partner in Hello Health,” he said. “We take extra time to implement and train employees so they can educate patients to use the systems and better understand the benefits of it.”

Ferguson said Hello Health is experiencing explosive growth, though, would not confirm the number of practices using the system nor the number of patient subscribers because the company is private. However, it is currently available in 27 states, with concentrations of users in New York, New Jersey, Texas, California, Georgia and Florida.

The value proposition to physicians is Hello Health’s business model and the fact that it is a revenue driver.

“Our differentiator is our business model,” Ferguson said. “Everyone tries to sell to the physicians, but most physicians are forced to push back because they can’t afford another bill.”

The fact that the system is free to implement and offers unlimited training is also a plus, he said.