Congress gets tough on EHR interoperability

Providers using incompatible or uncertified electronic health record systems by the end of 2018 could face reduced Medicare reimbursements under a bill introduced Thursday in both houses of Congress.

The legislation could put greater pressure on long-term care providers to beef up their health information technology sooner than later, observers say.

By Dec. 31, 2018, as the bill's sponsors envision, widespread EHR interoperability will need to be achieved by participating users in the meaningful use program and other clinicians and healthcare providers nationwide, according to published reports. Medicare quality improvement program participants that aren't meeting meaningful use requirements for EHR systems could face penalties as early as this year.

The bill also would link participation in the Medicare EHR incentive programs to its proposed merit-based incentive payment system (MIPS), Bloomberg News services reported. The legislation, which is part of a package designed to replace the sustainable growth rate formula, also would combine existing quality improvement programs like meaningful use and the Physician Quality Reporting System into the MIPS.

Earlier this month, legislation was introduced to make it easier for various EHR systems to achieve interoperability and promote the transparency of federal data to fuel efficiency and cut costs.