Washington, DC – A bi-partisan bill that prevents pathologists from facing payment penalties under the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS’) Electronic Health Record (EHR) Meaningful Use incentive program drew praise from the College of American Pathologists today. Representatives Tom Price (R-GA) and Ron Kind (D-WI) introduced the bill, H.R. 4066.
“Pathologists would welcome an opportunity to be included in the EHR Meaningful Use program,” said CAP President, Stanley M. Robboy, MD, FCAP. “However, the program focuses on office-based primary care practices. To meet some of the requirements, physicians must ensure the EHR for each patient contains their vital signs, medical allergies, smoking status, as well as their communication preferences. It also requires the systems to generate e-prescriptions, update immunization registries, and support drug interaction checks. There is no way for pathologists to participate. ”
By introducing this legislation, the Congressmen recognized the importance of allowing pathologists to implement information systems that meet their unique needs. “As important as it is to continue to offer bonus payments to providers for the implementation of health information technology (HIT),” said Representative Kind, “we’ve got to make sure that providers are not penalized by this incentive because of the way they practice medicine. By removing existing penalties, pathologists will be able to continue implementing the HIT systems that work with for them, cut costs and improve care.”
The laboratory information systems pathologists use to diagnose disease and manage vast amounts of data also feed the results into the EHR for each patient. While the process is fairly seamless, the communication is generally one-way, and pathologists rarely are able to view or update a patient’s electronic health record.
The CAP has met with regulators and laid out obstacles to pathologists’ participation in written comments to the ONC. However, no provisions were made for pathologists to participate.
“Laboratory technology is critical to patient care, and pathologists and their laboratories are indispensible to other physicians’ ability to meet the meaningful use requirements. However, the nature of laboratory medicine precludes the pathologists’ from meeting requirements focused on primary care clinicians offices,” Robboy said. “We recognize this is an important program, and look forward to working with ONC to continue to improve all patient information systems.”
The Medicare Meaningful Use program, originated under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), provides federal incentive funding to physicians who meet physician office-based meaningful use standards established by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). Beginning in 2015, physicians who do not meet the prescribed HIT meaningful use standards face penalties in the form of reductions in Medicare payments.
The legislation recognizes the unique system requirements of pathologists and laboratories by specifically excluding pathologists identified with a Medicare enrollment specialty code of 22 (pathology practice) or 69 (independent laboratory) from meaningful use payment penalties. Since pathologists will not be subject to payment penalties, the bill also excludes pathologists from EHR funding incentives under ARRA.
The College of American Pathologists (CAP), a medical society serving more than 18,000 physician members, provides world-class learning and accreditation to the global laboratory community. The CAP devotes its resources to serving patients by delivering the highest standards in laboratory medicine while enhancing the value and strengthening the future of pathologists. Improving patient outcomes with the development of evidence-based guidelines, advancing the science of pathology, and advocating for the specialty are core to the CAP’s mission since 1946.
Through 2012, the CAP is celebrating 50 years as the gold standard in laboratory accreditation and continues to accredit more than 7,000 laboratories in 40 countries with the approval of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to accredit laboratories in the U.S. The CAP also offers the world’s largest peer-comparison, external quality assessment program with more than 580 proficiency testing products using innovative technologies, including whole slide imaging. For more information, visit cap.org. Patient-centered cancer and disease prevention information is available on the CAP’s award-winning website, MyBiopsy.org and at MyHealthTestReminder.org.