CMS proposes modifications to the Promoting Interoperability Program

As part of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ proposed rules this week around Medicare fee-for-service payment rates and policies for hospitals and long-term facilities – changes that  could boost FY 2022 hospital payments by $2.8% – there are several provisions focused on technology, information exchange and patient access.

Most notably, there are a series of proposed changes to CMS’ Promoting Interoperability Program – the successor to meaningful use – designed to bolster the response to public health emergencies such as COVID-19.

The agency plans to amend program stipulations for eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals – broadening requirements focused on public health and clinical data exchange.

The proposed rule would make it mandatory for hospitals to report on four measures, rather than allowing a pick-and-choose approach, as had been the case before:

“Requiring hospitals to report these four measures would help to prepare public health agencies to respond to future health threats and a long-term COVID-19 recovery by strengthening public health functions, including early warning surveillance, case surveillance and vaccine uptake, which will increase the information available to help hospitals better serve their patients,” said CMS officials.

The new requirements would enable nationwide syndromic surveillance that could help provide early notices of emerging disease outbreaks, according to CMS. 

Additionally, automated case and lab reporting would speed response times for public health agencies, while broader and more granular visibility into immunization uptake patterns would help these agencies tailor their vaccine distribution plans.

As outlined on the CMS proposed rule fact sheet, these Promoting Interoperability Program changes are proposed for eligible hospitals and CAHs:

In other changes, CMS is proposing an extension for the New COVID-19 Treatments Add-on Payment it established this past November. The proposed rule would extend the NCTAP for “certain eligible technologies through the end of the fiscal year” in which the public health emergency ends.

The agency also wants to improve public health response by “leveraging meaningful measures for quality programs.”

CMS wants to require hospitals to report COVID-19 vaccinations of workers in their facilities via the COVID-19 Vaccination Coverage among Healthcare Personnel (HCP) Measure. 

“This proposed measure is designed to assess whether hospitals are taking steps to limit the spread of COVID-19 among their workforce, reduce the risk of transmission within their facilities, help sustain the ability of hospitals to continue serving their communities through the public health emergency, and assess the nation’s long-term recovery and readiness efforts,” said officials.

Additionally, CMS wants public comments on its  plans to modernize the quality measurement program. As described in the fact sheet, its proposals include:

“Hospitals are often the backbone of rural communities – but the COVID-19 pandemic has hit rural hospitals hard, and too many are struggling to stay afloat,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, in a statement.

“This rule will give hospitals more relief and additional tools to care for COVID-19 patients, and it will also bolster the health care workforce in rural and underserved communities.”

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: [email protected]

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS publication.

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