News Feature | July 18, 2016

HHS Releases Metrics For Evaluating Interoperability Under MACRA

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

Interoperability Metrics

Nearly 100 comments from stakeholders helped to shape the new metrics.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released two metric for evaluating “widespread interoperability” as required by the Medicare Access & CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA), according to an Health IT Buzz blog post.

HHS received nearly 100 comments from healthcare and health IT groups in response to their request for information regarding ways to measure interoperability related to four topics: burden, scope, outcomes, and complexity. Stakeholders urged metrics should not create significant additional reporting burdens for healthcare providers; should broaden the scope of measurement to include those who are not eligible for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive programs; should identify measures that go beyond the exchange of health information to examine the usefulness of information exchanged as well as the impact exchange has on overall health outcomes; and should recognize the complexity of measuring interoperability.

“MACRA specifically calls on HHS to establish metrics for the exchange and use of clinical information to facilitate coordinated care and improve patient outcomes between participants in the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs and others nationwide,” wrote Seth Pazinski and Talisha Searcy, both at the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Analysis at ONC.

HHS also identified two key measures that served to satisfy both stakeholder feedback and the specific parameters of MACRA:

  • Measure #1: “Proportion of healthcare providers who are electronically engaging in the following core domains of interoperable exchange of health information: sending; receiving; finding (querying); and integrating information received from outside sources.”
  • Measure #2: “Proportion of healthcare providers who report using the information they electronically receive from outside providers and sources for clinical decision-making.”

The focus on outcomes will increase in the long-term and measurement efforts will be expanded, HHS noted. As the post explained, “Although the MACRA requirement for measuring interoperability largely focuses on “meaningful users,” we are committed to advancing interoperability of health information more broadly. We will be expanding our measurement efforts to include populations across the care continuum in the near-term, as well as an increased focus on outcomes in the longer-term.

“This measurement strategy is described in the Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap — a collaboration with the private sector, states, and federal partners to identify near-term actions to advance an interoperable health system – and the Federal Health IT Strategic — a joint effort by more than 35 federal offices and agencies that use or influence the use of health information technology on person-centered care, advancement of science and overall health. Ultimately, these metrics will help inform the wide range of efforts underway to achieve a learning health system where information flows seamlessly and securely.”