CMS’ New Office of Burden Reduction and Health Informatics Aims to Cut Red Tape

June 25, 2020

On June 23, 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the creation of the Office of Burden Reduction and Health Informatics. The new office aims to ease healthcare providers’ regulatory and administrative burdens by reducing unnecessary regulation and increasing efficiencies such as the use of health informatics.

While it remains unclear what direct and substantive impact the new office will have on healthcare providers and other healthcare entities, the move stresses CMS’ longer-term commitment to improving efficiency in healthcare. Stakeholders should look for opportunities to provide input as the new office develops its strategies and policy initiatives.

What is the Office of Burden Reduction and Health Informatics and how does it relate to ongoing government efforts?

This new office is an offshoot of CMS’ Patients over Paperwork (PoP) Initiative and is part of the administration’s ongoing efforts to reduce administrative and regulatory costs to healthcare providers. The PoP Initiative, part of a 2017 Executive Order, sought to respond to healthcare community complaints of excessive regulation. By developing the new office, CMS aims to create a culture of burden reduction. It is part of a string of prior efforts, as highlighted in previous McGuireWoods client alerts on May 30, 2019, June 26, 2019, and June 9, 2019. Building on this work, CMS and the new office will continue identifying and reducing burdens on providers who serve Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.

According to CMS, the new office’s work “will be targeted to help reduce unnecessary burden, increase efficiencies, continue administrative simplification, increase the use of health informatics, and improve the beneficiary experience.” To reduce administrative and regulatory burdens, the new office will increase engagement with stakeholders to understand the impact of regulatory burdens on healthcare delivery, proactively review the impact of new regulations and their burden on the healthcare system, and work to implement and enforce national standards that encourage efficiency.

Specifically, CMS highlighted its efforts to reduce burdens on healthcare providers during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, it granted extensions to deadlines and exceptions to reporting under Medicare’s Quality Payment Program and other provider, hospital and post-acute programs. Additionally, CMS reported that it acted to ease federal rules and to institute new flexibilities intended to allow healthcare providers to focus greater attention on treating COVID-19 patients.

What are the new office’s plans with respect to health informatics?

The new office will leverage health data and technology to promote and prioritize innovation, interoperability, improved patient outcomes and care coordination. For example, the new office intends to create tools that will allow patients to own and carry their personal health data “seamlessly, privately, and securely.” CMS stated that this could bring about new efficiencies, and such initiatives will likely work in tandem with the recent Interoperability and Patient Access regulations that were finalized earlier this year.

What are the key takeaways for stakeholders as the new office launches?

While CMS has not provided much by way of substantive detail about the new office’s concrete plans, it is clear that CMS intends for the new office to dovetail with CMS’ goals to promote the reduction of administrative and regulatory burdens and increase efficiencies in the healthcare system.

First, stakeholders such as healthcare provider entities and individuals should look for opportunities to provide CMS and the new office with input about the regulatory burdens they face, proposals to relieve these burdens and feedback on strategies and policies implemented by the new office.

Second, stakeholders should remain vigilant about potential changes in reporting requirements, CMS-mandated compliance and other processes that could impact administration and clinical care. This move by CMS signals its continued commitment to burden reduction, and healthcare providers should expect more changes in future that may require working closely with compliance, legal, clinical and finance teams to implement changes and assess their impact.

Third, stakeholders should consider leveraging tools or strategies developed by the new office to simplify and cut administrative costs, streamline healthcare provision and improve patient care delivery.

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