Govt Rule Encourages Home Health Data in Hospital EHRs

In yet another sign that home health and in-home technologies are increasingly central to the U.S. health care system, the federal government has proposed making home health data a more significant part of hospitals’ electronic health records (EHRs).

Incorporating home health data into an EHR would count toward objectives that eligible hospitals must meet to receive certain payments from the government, under a proposed rule published Monday in the Federal Register.

The proposed rule sets out the criteria that eligible hospitals, professionals and other health care providers must meet to qualify for Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive payments and avoid downward payment adjustments under Stage 3 of the meaningful use program.

Meaningful use refers to utilizing EHR technology in certain ways defined by the government, such as to improve care coordination among different types of providers, and to engage patients and family. Meaningful use compliance is intended to achieve a variety of results, including better clinical outcomes and improved population health. Providers who take part in the meaningful use program are eligible to receive incentive payments if they meet criteria, but they also could see reimbursements docked if they fail to meet requirements.

The program began in 2011 and has progressed over three stages. The third and final stage is set to begin in 2016, and the proposed rule lays out the parameters for this stage.

One of the proposed objectives for Stage 3 is “Coordination of Care Through Patient Engagement.” There are three measures that fall under this objective. One of these proposed measures is that the EHR will incorporate patient-generated data or data from a non-clinical setting for more than 15% of all unique patients discharged by the eligible hospital.

Data from home health providers would count toward this measure, as would data generated by patients using self-monitoring technology such as an activity tracker or heart monitor.

“Providers have expressed a desire to have this information captured in a useful and structured way and made available in the EHR,” the proposed rule states. “The capture and incorporation of this information is an integral part of ensuring that providers and patients have adequate information to partner in making clinical care decisions, especially for patients with chronic disease and complex health conditions for whom self-monitoring is an important part of an ongoing care plan.”

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is seeking comment on the proposal. The agency specifically asks for a variety of feedback, including input on whether EHRs should include structured data elements for this type of information, and whether eligible hospitals should be included in this measure or whether it should be limited to eligible professionals.

Comments are due by May 29.

Written by Tim Mullaney