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What is CMS doing to tackle interoperability?

Medical Data

The ability to share data with other providers and with patients is an important aspect of providing quality healthcare. Interoperability improves the ease with which doctors can provide care to their patients and with which patients can move in and out of different care facilities. Interoperable electronic health records (EHRs) allow this electronic sharing of patient information between different EHR systems and providers.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recognizes the importance of interoperability and has taken steps to promote it among independent physicians. Beginning in 2011, CMS developed the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, which has since become known as the Promoting Interoperability Programs. These CMS initiatives were developed to encourage eligible professionals to adopt, implement, upgrade, and demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health record technology (CEHRT).

Learn more about Elation’s Collaborative Health Record (CHR), which aims at facilitating cross-communication between providers.

In providing incentive payments, the Promoting Interoperability Programs are designed to support providers in this period of health technology transition and to instill the use of EHRs in meaningful ways that will help improve the quality, safety, and efficiency of patient healthcare. For the purposes of the interoperability program, eligible professionals include:

  • Physicians
  • Nurse Practitioners
  • Certified Nurse – Midwife
  • Dentists
  • Physicians Assistants who practice in a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) or Rural Health Center (RHC) that is led by a Physician Assistant
  • Doctors of Optometry.

In addition, Medicaid eligible professionals must:

  • Have a minimum of 30% Medicaid patient volume (20% minimum for pediatricians), OR
  • Practice predominantly in a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) or Rural Health Center (RHC) and have at least 30% patient volume to needy individuals.

Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, wrote in a recent article published by Health IT News that CMS may reduce Medicare payments for independent physicians and other healthcare providers who do not give patients electronic access to their data. She notes that they “took a struggling program that was focused on EHR adoption and transformed it into a driver for data exchange among providers to give patients access to their healthcare data.”