ONC proposes 2015 edition EHR certification criteria   02/21/2014
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology today released a proposed rule for the 2015 edition electronic health record certification criteria. According to ONC, this rule is the beginning of a proposed annual regulatory update to the standards and certification criteria for EHRs “in order to provide smaller, more incremental regulatory changes and policy proposals.” The 2015 certification criteria would be voluntary for EHR vendors for purposes of meeting the certified EHRs requirements in the meaningful use program, or other Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services quality reporting and payment programs where certified EHR use is optional. Likewise, providers would not be required to use the 2015 Edition to meet meaningful use. The deadline for public comment will be 60 days after the publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register.
CMS bundled payment initiative accepting Model 2-4 applicants   02/21/2014
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is accepting applications through April 18 from additional hospitals and other health care providers interested in participating in Models 2 through 4 of the Bundled Payments for Care Improvement initiative.  The Medicare demonstration includes four models that bundle payments for multiple services received during an episode of inpatient and/or post-acute care in an effort to better coordinate care for patients and reduce costs. Organizations may participate in more than one model. Model 2 includes retrospective bundled payment models for hospitals, physicians and post-acute providers for an episode of care consisting of an inpatient hospital stay followed by post-acute care. Model 3 includes retrospective bundled payment models for post-acute care where the episode does not include the acute inpatient hospital stay. Model 4 includes prospectively administered bundled payment models for the acute inpatient hospital stay and related admissions. For more on the announcement, see the CMS notice. The CMS Innovation Center will host a March 4 webinar on the program and requirements for submitting requests for participation. To join the event, at 12 p.m. ET, click here.   
CMS posts wage index public use files   02/21/2014
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services yesterday posted two public use files containing data that will be used to develop a proposed hospital wage index for fiscal year 2015. The files include wage and occupational mix data for all hospitals in CMS’ database through Feb. 19, and a preliminary comparison of average hourly wages by area for FYs 2014 and 2015. Medicare Administrative Contractors will accept data correction requests through March 3 for errors related to CMS or MAC handling of the wage index data, or MAC handling of the desk review adjustments. Correction requests must include the appropriate documentation. CMS’ proposed FY 2015 hospital wage index will be published in the Federal Register this spring.
AHA files amicus brief in appeal of 'observation' lawsuit   02/21/2014
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ ambiguous policy regarding “observation” stays leaves hospitals “in an untenable position,” the AHA said in a friend-of-the-court brief filed yesterday in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The brief takes no position regarding the proper outcome of the case, brought by Medicare beneficiaries challenging the agency's use of observation status, but provides the court with another perspective on why this is a difficult issue for hospitals and hence beneficiaries. “Without adequate guidance, hospitals will continue to be exposed to claim denials and [False Claims Act] liability simply for deferring to the medical judgments of patients’ admitting physicians,” AHA wrote. “…[H]owever the Court resolves this case, it should do so with sensitivity to the difficult situation hospitals find themselves in with respect to observation status.” Adding to the difficulty, the brief points out, is the fact that the government does not speak with one voice. “On the one hand, [hospitals] risk loss of reimbursement, monetary damages and penalties from auditors and prosecutors when they admit patients for short, medically necessary, inpatient stays,” the brief states. “On the other hand, they face criticism from patients and CMS over the perceived use of observation services as a substitute for inpatient admission.”
First group practice, ACO quality data added to Physician Compare   02/21/2014
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services today added to its Physician Compare website the first quality data for group practices and accountable care organizations participating in Medicare’s Physician Quality Reporting System Group Practice Reporting Option. The data show how 66 group practices and 141 ACOs performed on five quality measures related to diabetes and heart disease care for program year 2012: controlling blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes; controlling blood pressure in patients with diabetes; prescribing aspirin to patients with diabetes and heart disease; patients with diabetes who do not use tobacco; and prescribing medicine to improve the heart’s pumping action in patients who have both heart disease and certain other conditions. Each practice and ACO receives a percentage score and star rating for each measure. For more information, see the CMS news release.
HHS issues HIPAA guidance on sharing mental health information   02/21/2014
The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights yesterday issued guidance reviewing the circumstances in which health care providers treating patients for mental health conditions may share protected health information under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s privacy rule. Among other topics, the guidance reviews when HIPAA permits health care providers to communicate with family members, friends or others involved in the patient's care; and how providers may communicate with family members, law enforcement or others when the patient presents a serious and imminent threat of harm to themselves or others.
Former AHA chair John Bluford to retire   02/21/2014
John Bluford will retire as president and CEO of Truman Medical Centers effective July 18, the health system announced today. Bluford served as AHA chairman in 2011. He began his tenure at TMC in 1999, providing 15 years of progressive leadership and change management to the organization. “During his tenure as CEO, John’s unwavering vision and extraordinary commitment for TMC to provide high-quality health care, better for everyone, has led us to new heights never before imagined,” said Peggy Dunn, chair of the TMC Board of Directors. “In addition, we are grateful that he has conscientiously assembled an outstanding leadership team that will continue his legacy and ensure our future success.” Bluford said he intends to remain engaged in the Kansas City area, participate in local and national boards, and continue to speak around the country. He also will concentrate on mentoring the next generation of health care leaders through the Bluford Healthcare Leadership Institute, which he established in 2013.