WASHINGTON, D.C. — Health & Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell yesterday hailed the "historic cooperation" taking place between hospitals and federal agencies, and encouraged continued cooperation in moving health care "from coverage to care."

At an appearance yesterday at the American Hospital Association's Annual Membership Meeting, Burwell said it was at the urging of hospitals that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services this spring modified meaningful use rules on electronic health records to make them less onerous for providers, including shortening the reporting period to 90 days.

Burwell said her staff is still considering feedback from hospitals on the "two-midnight rule," in which CMS has tried to distinguish between inpatients and outpatients treated in hospital settings. Under the rule, only patients whom doctors expect will need to spend two nights in the hospital would be considered as inpatients. This has been a bone of contention with providers, and Burwell made no promises that a decision is forthcoming to make it more palatable to them.

However, she said, it's only through frank and respectful dialogue between providers and policymakers that the nation can build a system that provides "better care, spends our dollars more wisely and helps our citizens be more healthy." She said that partly by working together, the health care field achieved the slowest growth on record in real per capita national health expenditures in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Burwell also urged more hospitals to join the Health Care Payment Learning and Action Network to test value-based payments and alternative payment models. And she called on hospitals to continue to advocate for states to expand Medicaid.

"We need your active voices to continue to move these conversations forward," she said.