More Groups Respond to GOP Concerns About Meaningful Use Program

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Two more health care organizations have commented on a letter and white paper by six Republican senators saying that the meaningful use program should be rebooted, Modern Healthcare reports (Conn, Modern Healthcare, 5/21).

Background

Under the 2009 federal economic stimulus package, health care providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health record systems can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments.

On April 16, the GOP senators released a 28-page white paper -- titled, "REBOOT: Re-examining the Strategies Needed to Successfully Adopt Health IT" -- outlining their concerns about current federal health IT policy.

The white paper accompanied a letter that the six lawmakers sent to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The letter requested information about the agency's progress in promoting EHR adoption through the meaningful use program.

The six Republican senators who released the white paper and signed the letter are:

  • Lamar Alexander (Tenn.);
  • Richard Burr (N.C.);
  • Tom Coburn (Okla.);
  • Mike Enzi (Wyo.);
  • Pat Roberts (Kan.); and
  • John Thune (S.D.).

In the white paper, the lawmakers acknowledged that the meaningful use program aims to improve health care quality and reduce costs. However, they wrote, "nearly four years after the enactment ... we see evidence that the program is at risk of not achieving its goals and that $35 billion in taxpayer money is being spent ineffectively in the process" (iHealthBeat, 5/21).

HIMSS' Comments

In a comment letter, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society said that the meaningful use program is positively affecting EHR adoption nationwide and is helping hospitals move toward data sharing to improve quality of care.

HIMSS also said although some groups are concerned that misuse of EHRs could increase health care costs, "today's [EHR] systems can facilitate better documentation," which allows physicians to code more accurately and draw higher reimbursements in some cases.

According to the letter, the need for "a nationwide patient data matching strategy" represents one of the biggest unresolved issues in achieving interoperability.

TMA's Comments

In a separate letter responding to the Republican senators' comments, the Texas Medical Association called the meaningful use program "much-needed."

TMA said that the program has helped boost the percentage of Texas physicians using EHRs from 25% in 2005 to 60% in 2012, "with another 22% planning to adopt in the next two years."

However, interoperability remains "extremely difficult," TMA added.

The organization said that to achieve complete data exchange capabilities quickly, CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT "should require EHR vendors to tag all EHR data elements with standardized XML and store [them] in their native tablets" (Modern Healthcare, 5/21).

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