Free EMR Newsletter Want to receive the latest news on EMR, Meaningful Use, ARRA and Healthcare IT sent straight to your email? Join thousands of healthcare pros who subscribe to EMR and HIPAA for FREE!!

5 Ways Your Certified EHR Can Help Boost Your MIPS Score

Posted on February 5, 2018 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Lisa Eramo, a regular contributor to Kareo’s Go Practice Blog.

How did you do in the first year of reporting under the Quality Payment Program? Are you expecting a negative payment adjustment under the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS)? Or did you only submit the minimum data necessary in 2017 to avoid this adjustment? The good news is that you can get on track to report critical MIPS measures in 2018 that will safeguard and perhaps even enhance your revenue in 2020 and beyond.

In fact, your electronic health record (EHR) technology may already include various features that can help increase your MIPS score, says Marina Verdara, senior training specialist at Kareo. All you need to do is take advantage of them. Verdara discusses five ways in which medical practices should be able to capitalize on their EHR to improve performance under MIPS.

  1. Use an EHR Certified With the 2015 Criteria

Technology certified using the 2015 criteria supports interoperability across the care continuum, and it also enables physicians to earn additional revenue under MIPS, says Verdara. According to the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act final rule, physicians earn a one-time bonus of 10 percentage points under the advancing care information (ACI) performance category of MIPS when they report objectives and measures using only 2015 edition certified electronic health record technology during calendar year 2018. In 2018, 25% of a physician’s MIPS score is tied to ACI.

“The federal rule indicates the clinician will earn a 10% bonus to their ACI score if they report using only a 2015 CEHRT, but they will determine this based on the measures submitted,” Verdara explains. “Therefore, a clinician can switch anytime during 2018 as long as they can report at least 90 days for the ACI category.”

In addition to this bonus, clinicians are eligible to receive a bonus of 10 percentage points applied to the ACI category if they report Stage 3 objectives and measures, says Verdara. They can do this if their certified EMR can document and track these measures. Refer to Table 7 in the MACRA final rule for more information about these measures.

  1. Choose Applicable Quality Measures

In 2018, 50% of your MIPS score is based on the quality measures you submit. Your 2015 Certified EHR should support your quality measure selection. “For instance, our physicians have an easy-to-use tool within our EHR that prompts them to narrow down measures that are most applicable for their specialty,” says Verdara. Customers can contact them directly for more information about each measure, its specifications, and what CMS is looking for when calculating numerators and denominators.

When using your EHR to choose measures, Verdara suggests running a report for all of the quality measures your vendor supports, including those you may not plan to submit for attestation. That’s because the data could reveal one or more measures you hadn’t anticipated as advantageous for your practice that could ultimately boost your score, she adds.

Examine the entire report, and identify your top 10 measures (i.e., those on which you’ve performed most effectively). Now dig into the data. Are each of these measures applicable for your specialty? If so, focus on data capture for those 10 measures. If some of your top 10 measures are in other specialties, eliminate those from your workflow and choose ones that are relevant. “Make sure you understand how to document and improve the score for that measure,” says Verdara.

Ultimately, submit all 10 measures to CMS even though only six are required, says Verdara. During the submission process, the CMS attestation website automatically scores each measure based on available benchmarks, and physicians have an opportunity to remove the measures on which they’ve performed most poorly prior to final submission.

  1. Don’t Overlook Reporting Opportunities

Your EHR should be looking out for reporting opportunities so that you can focus on patient care. Verdara provides the example of smoking cessation counseling. Physicians commonly perform this type of counseling but may not receive credit under MIPS because they don’t check the box indicating the work was done. “We have built-in guides to help physicians understand why they might be missing out on a particular quality metric,” says Verdara, adding that physicians should be able to look to their EHR to prompt and guide them to understand where missed opportunities may lie.

  1. Use Clinical Decision Support to Enhance MIPS Performance

Your EHR should also provide prompts to remind physicians about age- and condition-specific preventive screenings and care that, when provided to patients, can help improve MIPS scores. Physicians using Kareo, for example, can improve performance on MIPS measures related to influenza and age-specific immunizations as well as screening for clinical depression, high blood pressure, and more, all of which directly translate to higher scores, says Verdara. “It helps the physician provide better care,” she adds. “It’s a win-win for the clinician and the patient.”

  1. Run Clinical Reports to Pinpoint Opportunities for Care Improvement

MIPS reports not only allow for attestation, but they also help practices understand what they do well—and what needs improvement, says Verdara. For example, practices tracking patients whose hemoglobin A1C is greater than 9% during the performance period can use this report for MIPS attestation and to improve outcomes. More specifically, they can reach out to patients with a poor A1C to provide additional counseling and guidance. “This is a good one to track because diabetes is an epidemic,” says Verdara. “It helps practices target patients who are non-compliant.” The same is true for measures related to controlling high blood pressure and asthma.

To learn more about MACRA, visit https://qpp.cms.gov/.

About Lisa Eramo
Lisa Eramo is a regular contributor to Kareo’s Go Practice Blog, as well as other healthcare publications, websites and blogs, including the AHIMA Journal. Her focus areas are medical coding, clinical documentation improvement and healthcare quality/efficiency.  Kareo is a proud sponsor of Healthcare Scene.

Why Clinicians Need a 2015 Certified EHR

Posted on January 11, 2018 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Lisa Eramo, a regular contributor to Kareo’s Go Practice Blog.

What does “2015 Certified EHR” mean to practicing clinicians? The once-flooded EHR market is now whittling down to those vendors equipped to respond to regulatory and industry changes. The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology listed more than 4,000 EHRs with 2014 certification criteria, according to the most recent data from healthIT.gov. And to date, only about 200 EHRs have passed the rigorous 2015 certification criteria.

However, beyond the fact that 2015 is indeed the most recent certification criteria as issued by the HHS, why should medical practices care?  

When vendors certify their EHRs, physicians—and patients—are ultimately the beneficiaries, says Beth Onofri, EHR and industry advisor at Kareo, who led the 2015 Certification process for the Kareo Clinical EHR. Physicians benefit because the technology allows them to easily attest that they’ve met quality requirements specified in the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA). This includes Advancing Care Information (ACI)-related measures that help physicians boost their payments. ACI accounts for 25 percent of a physician’s performance score that dictates reimbursement under the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS). Patients benefit because they’re able to access and exchange their own health information more easily than ever before. It’s a win-win all around, says Onofri.

“The 2015 criteria require functionality supporting unprecedented patient engagement, care coordination, and information exchange, all of which bodes well for physicians striving to improve outcomes.”
—Beth Onofri, EHR and Industry Advisor at Kareo

Although using a certified EHR is important, implementing one that’s certified using only the 2015 criteria (not the 2014 criteria or a combination of the two) is a critical piece of the puzzle under MACRA, says Onofri. EHRs certified with the 2015 criteria help pave the way for physicians to receive a bonus in 2018. In addition, the 2015 criteria require functionality that supports unprecedented patient engagement, care coordination, and information exchange, all of which bodes well for physicians striving to improve outcomes.

Still, many physicians aren’t aware of how the 2015 certification criteria can help their practices, says Onofri.

Of the 60 different 2015 certification criteria, Onofri says these five are particularly helpful for practices seeking to improve the quality of the care they provide, ultimately fostering accurate payments under value-based payment reform:

1. View, download, and transmit health information to a third party

The 2015 criteria require a secure method of access (usually through a patient portal) as well as the ability to send information to an unsecured email address of the patient’s choice, says Onofri. The idea is that offering various access options improves overall patient engagement and outcomes.

She suggests creating a brochure that explains to patients how they can access and use the portal, including how to view, download, and transmit their health information. Another idea is to recruit a volunteer who can show patients how to use the portal while they wait in the waiting area. “There needs to be a strong advocate in each practice to make sure that these functionalities are implemented and used,” she adds. “Those practices with an advocate are the ones that will succeed.”

2. Secure messaging

This functionality allows physicians to send messages to—and receive messages from—patients in a secure manner, helping to improve engagement and communication. Practices must define how they’ll use secure messaging, including who will respond and what types of questions they’ll permit (e.g., fulfill appointment requests vs. answering clinical inquiries). “There are a small percentage of doctors who will want to answer their own messages, but there is a larger percentage of doctors who will want their staff to answer the emails and, if necessary, escalate to the provider,” says Onofri.

3. Patient health information capture

This functionality allows physicians to accept patient-generated health data into the EHR. For example, Onofri notes that the Kareo Clinical 2015 Edition EHR allows patients to record their health information at home to easily upload the information to their portal and transmit it securely to the physician for shared decision-making. The idea is that access to more comprehensive health data can help physicians prevent and manage disease—and it could be a game-changer in terms of population health management.

Start small when rolling out this functionality, she says. For instance, encourage patients with high blood pressure to upload their blood readings daily before engaging a second population (e.g., those with diabetes who upload their glucose levels).

4. Transitions of care

This functionality calls for interoperable documents that include key health data (e.g., name, date of birth, and medications) as well as standardized format for exchange. A transition of care summary provides critical information as patients transfer between different physicians at different health organizations or even distinct levels of care within the same organization.

“It’s not uncommon for our providers to send the referral right as they are completing the note with the patient in the room,” says Onofri. “This obviously speeds the care coordination for patients in terms of seeing another doctor.” The only caveat is that practices must compile a list of direct email addresses for physicians to whom patients are frequently referred, she adds.

5. Application programming interfaces (APIs)

“This is one of those requirements that is the foundation of things to come,” says Onofri. “It’s the first step toward interoperability.” API functionality will eventually allow patients to aggregate data from multiple sources in a web or mobile application of their choice.

Physicians who take the time to explore each of these 2015 certification functionalities may be more likely to improve outcomes and reap financial rewards under MACRA, says Onofri. “The improved functionality is there—is your practice taking advantage of it?”

About Lisa Eramo
Lisa Eramo is a regular contributor to Kareo’s Go Practice Blog, as well as other healthcare publications, websites and blogs, including the AHIMA Journal. Her focus areas are medical coding, clinical documentation improvement and healthcare quality/efficiency.  Kareo is a proud sponsor of Healthcare Scene.