Certification and the CMA (AAMA) Credential, Computerized Provider Order Entry (CPOE), EHR Incentive Programs, Meaningful Use, Medicaid, Medicare, On the Job, Scope of Practice

Addressing Recent Concerns About Order Entry

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Blog recently posted these articles dealing with forthcoming changes to the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs:

EHR Incentive Programs: Where We Go Next

Comments of CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt at the J.P. Morgan Annual Health Care Conference, Jan. 11, 2016

In the wake of these pieces, there has been some concern about the potential effects on medical assistants’ ability to enter orders into the computerized provider order entry (CPOE) system for meaningful use purposes. I have addressed these concerns in a memorandum to AAMA leaders. The body of this message is as follows:

January 22, 2016

Within the last 10 days the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued statements about forthcoming changes in the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs (Incentive Programs) required by the passage of the Medicare Access and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Reauthorization Act of 2015, referred to as “MACRA.”

Congress enacted MACRA on April 16, 2015.  This legislation replaces the current meaningful use (MU) payment adjustment provisions with the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), effective January 1, 2019.  According to CMS, MIPS will incorporate some meaningful use elements of the current program and will introduce new elements.

There has been a groundswell of concern that MACRA will do away with the requirement that only third-party-credentialed medical assistants, licensed health care professionals, and third-party-credentialed individuals “who hold a more specific title than ‘medical assistant’ because their duties include only parts of the medical assisting scope of practice, or because of the specialization of the overseeing eligible professional (EP),” are permitted to enter medication, laboratory, and diagnostic imaging orders into the computerized provider order entry (CPOE) system for meaningful use calculation purposes under the Incentive Programs.

In my legal opinion, this concern is not warranted because of the following:

  1. The order entry credentialing requirement of the Incentive Programs was established by CMS rule, not by federal statute.
  2. No provisions of MACRA impact the CMS order entry credentialing requirement.
  3. The legislative history of MACRA does not indicate that Congress was concerned about the CMS order entry credentialing requirement.

CMS regulations implementing MACRA and MIPS are scheduled to be published for comment in 2016.  I do not anticipate that these forthcoming regulations will include any changes to the credentialing requirement of the CMS MU order entry rule.  However, if changes are proposed that could potentially harm patients by lowering the credentialing requirement for medical assistants who enter orders into a CPOE system, the American Association of Medical Assistants will be quick to point this out to CMS decision makers, and to persuade them to maintain or increase the current requirement.

Certification and the CMA (AAMA) Credential, Computerized Provider Order Entry (CPOE), EHR Incentive Programs, Meaningful Use, Medicaid, Medicare, On the Job, Scope of Practice

CMS Final Rule Reaffirms Credentialing Requirement for Medical Assistants

On October 6, 2015, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued its final rule for the Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs. In responding to comments urging that the “credentialed medical assistant” requirement be made less stringent, CMS reaffirmed that medical assistants must have a third-party credential (such as the CMA (AAMA)), and must have sufficient knowledge to handle properly clinical decision support (CDS) alerts.

One party commenting on the CMS notice of proposed rulemaking for the EHR Incentive Programs made the suggestion “that if a standard for medical assistant CPOE [computerized provider order entry] is required, then the standard should be that the medical assistant must be appropriately trained for CEHRT [certified electronic health record technology] use (including CPOE) by the employer or CEHRT vendor in order to be counted [toward meeting the meaningful use requirements of the Incentive Programs].” (page 322 of the attached document)

CMS responded as follows:

We [CMS] disagree that the training on the use of CEHRT is adequate for the purposes of entering an order under CPOE and executing any relevant action related to a CDS. We believe CPOE and CDS duties should be considered clinical in nature, not clerical.  Therefore, CPOE and CDS duties, as noted, should be viewed in the same category as any other clinical task, which may only be performed by a qualified medical or clinical staff. (page 323 of the attached document)

This position of CMS is a resounding affirmation of the fact that only professionally-credentialed medical assistants (such as CMAs (AAMA)) are qualified to enter orders safely into the CPOE system.

More information about the CMS final rule will be forthcoming in Legal Eye: On Medical Assisting and CMA Today.

CMS Final Rule (10/6/15), pages 322-323

Computerized Provider Order Entry (CPOE), EHR Incentive Programs, Medicare, On the Job

OIG Initiates Audit Program of the Medicare EHR Incentive Program

As part of its Work Plan for Fiscal Year 2015, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services is initiating an audit program of the Medicare Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program. This audit program will be conducted in addition those already being performed by Figliozzi and Company, the audit contractor for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Any eligible professionals (EPs) who received incentive payments from Jan. 1, 2011, to June 30, 2014, are eligible to be randomly selected for auditing. The OIG will review certain meaningful use measures to determine whether selected EPs incorrectly received any incentive payments, and whether those EPs have adequately protected patients’ health information created or maintained by the EHR. As part of the auditing process, the agency will request specific information and documentation of compliance with the meaningful use measures under review.

To prepare for the possibility of an audit, all EPs should review their documentation for each meaningful use measure and for every year an incentive payment was received. For more information, visit the CMS meaningful use meaningful use audits webpage and access the Medical Group Management Association’s Meaningful Use Resource Center.

CMS Stage 2 Rule, Computerized Provider Order Entry (CPOE), EHR Incentive Programs

CMS NPRM Expands Category of Radiology Orders, Thresholds

As a follow-up to my post yesterday, the March 20, 2015, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for Stage 3 of the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs has expanded the category of radiology orders to include diagnostic imaging other than radiology.  Also, the thresholds for medication, laboratory, and diagnostic imaging orders have been increased for Stage 3.  Note the following excerpts from the CMS NPRM:

We propose to continue our policy from the Stage 2 final rule that the orders to be included in this objective are medication, laboratory, and radiology orders, as such orders are commonly included in CPOE implementation and offer opportunity to maximize efficiencies for providers. However, for Stage 3, we are proposing to expand the objective to include diagnostic imaging, which is a broader category including other imaging tests such as ultrasound, magnetic resonance, and computed tomography in addition to traditional radiology. This change addresses the needs of specialists and allows for a wider variety of clinical orders relevant to particular specialists to be included for purposes of measurement.

Based on our review of attestation data from Stages 1 and 2 demonstrating provider performance on the CPOE measures, we propose to increase the threshold for medication orders to 80 percent and to increase the threshold for diagnostic imaging orders and laboratory orders to 60 percent.

Certification and the CMA (AAMA) Credential, Computerized Provider Order Entry (CPOE), EHR Incentive Programs, On the Job, Scope of Practice

Breaking News: Proposed CMS Rule is Favorable for CMAs (AAMA)

On March 20, 2015, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for Stage 3 of the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs.  I am pleased to report that the Proposed Objective for computerized provider order entry (CPOE) in the NPRM is very favorable for credentialed medical assistants such as CMAs (AAMA).  Note the following excerpts from the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking:

Proposed Objective: Use computerized provider order entry (CPOE) for medication, laboratory, and diagnostic imaging orders directly entered by any licensed healthcare professional, credentialed medical assistant, or a medical staff member credentialed to and performing the equivalent duties of a credentialed medical assistant; who can enter orders into the medical record per state, local, and professional guidelines.…

In Stage 3, we propose to continue the policy from the Stage 2 final rule at

77 FR 53986 that orders entered by any licensed healthcare professional or credentialed medical assistant would count toward this objective. A credentialed medical assistant may enter orders if they are credentialed to perform the duties of a medical assistant by a credentialing body other than the employer. If a staff member of the eligible provider is appropriately credentialed and performs assistive services similar to a medical assistant, but carries a more specific title due to either specialization of their duties or to the specialty of the medical professional they assist, orders entered by that staff member would be included in this objective. We further note that medical staff whose organizational or job title, or the title of their credential, is other than medical assistant may enter orders if these staff are credentialed to perform the equivalent duties of a credentialed medical assistant by a credentialing body other than their employer and perform such duties as part of their organizational or job title. We defer to the provider’s discretion to determine the appropriateness of the credentialing of staff to ensure that any staff entering orders have the clinical training and knowledge required to enter orders for CPOE.…

However, as stated in the Stage 2 final rule at 77 FR 53986, it is apparent that the prevalent time when CDS [Clinical Decision Support] interventions are presented is when the order is entered into CEHRT [Certified Electronic Health Record Technology], and that not all EHRs also present CDS when the order is authorized (assuming such a multiple step ordering process is in place). This means that the person entering the order would be required to enter the order correctly, evaluate a CDS intervention either using their own judgment or through accurate relay of the information to the ordering provider, and then either make a change to the order based on the information provided by the CDS intervention or bypass the intervention. The execution of this role represents a significant impact on patient safety; therefore, we continue to maintain for Stage 3 that a layperson is not qualified to perform these tasks. [Emphasis added]

The full document can be found here. I will provide further excerpts and summaries later this week and next week.