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Family physicians find meaningful use audits are expensive, unhelpful

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) didn’t get the response it desired when it sent a letter of concern about the meaningful use audit program to CMS in April. In fact, CMS hasn’t responded to the AAFP at all.

CMS’ silence prompted Reid B. Blackwelder, M.D., AAFP board chair, to address another letter to CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt on behalf of the AAFP’s nearly 121,000 members.

After discussions with its members, the AAFP is questioning whether meaningful use audits are undoing what the original program set out to accomplish, namely lightening the financial requirements of installing and maintaining an EHR system. The group’s central complaint is that meaningful use audits saddle physicians “with unreasonable and burdensome documentation requests which result in additional, significant expenses to be a meaningful user.”

The more recent AAFP letter listed common complaints the group has received from family physicians about being the subjects of meaningful use audits. A lack of communication on the auditor’s behalf was a recurring gripe. Physicians said auditors don’t always follow up their audits or correspond with them in a timely fashion. When the auditors did interact with physicians, the back and forth between the two sides carried on for so long that some physicians were left wondering when their audit had officially ended.

To improve its understanding of the meaningful use audit program, the AAFP asked CMS to answer the following questions:

  • What percentage of eligible professionals is being audited?
  • What is the pass/fail ratio of meaningful use audits?
  • What are the details behind the selection process for an audit?

Undeterred by CMS’ failing to counter its previous correspondence, the AAFP’s letter concluded with a request to meet with CMS to review those questions. A meeting between the two groups would also give the AAFP a forum to explain why the family physicians it represents have categorized the audit process as “disruptive and unhelpful.”