HITN Applauds Telehealth, Interoperability Advances in Final CMS Payment Rule

WASHINGTON, DC (November 2, 2018): Health IT Now - a broad-based coalition of patient groups, provider organizations, employers, and payers supporting the use of data and health information technology to improve healthcare - today applauded telehealth and interoperability advances made in CMS's final 2019 Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) and Quality Payment Program (QPP) final rule.

The rule heeds recommendations made earlier this year in a report by Health IT Now and the Bipartisan Policy Center to address provider burden and bring relief from excessive paperwork. It additionally expands CMS's list of Medicare-covered telehealth services including, for the first time, paying providers for quick virtual check-ins between patients and practitioners.

The policy also honors Health IT Now's call for revisions to the emergency and management (E/M) documentation framework, a first in more than twenty years, and finalizes an overhaul of electronic health record (EHR) requirements in order to focus on promoting interoperability.

HITN Executive Director Joel White released the following statement:

"While much work remains to ensure that Medicare catches up with private payors in its coverage of telehealth services, this final rule marks progress. By reimbursing doctors for virtual check-ins, remote image evaluation, and other technology-enabled services, CMS is leading the march toward a modernized Medicare program that can help its 59 million enrollees access care when and where they need it," said HITN Executive Director Joel White. "We urge CMS to expand this policy beyond established patients. Health IT Now further believes that CMS’s decision not to define these virtual services as ‘telehealth,’ so as to avoid running afoul of current inflexible telehealth restrictions, highlights the urgent need for Congress to do its part as well. We cannot fully realize the promise of telehealth in Medicare independent of Congressional action."

White added, "Health IT Now has concerns with the inclusion of the PDMP Query measure under MIPS for 2019. While optional, this measure leaves clinicians susceptible to the unintentional inappropriate dispensing of opioids, given the blind spots and data latency issues that remain in current PDMP technology. Instead of doubling down on a flawed system, we must empower clinicians with better, easy-to-use tools that complement the work of PDMPs to thwart opioid misuse in real-time. The Prescription Safety Alert System endorsed by HITN's Opioid Safety Alliance and delineated in the bipartisan ALERT Act would do exactly that."

White concluded, "Finally, Health IT Now applauds the incentives in this policy to promote interoperability across the healthcare continuum but, as we noted in our comments on the proposed rule, barriers to interoperability remain due to the lack of clear rules regarding harmful information blocking practices as required under the 21st Century Cures Act. We appreciate administration officials' update earlier this fall that a proposed information blocking rule is under review at OMB and we eagerly await its swift release."

Read HITN's September 2018 letter on the proposed Physician Fee Schedule and Quality Payment Program rule here