Senators Express Health IT Policy Concerns

Posted on by Frank J. Rosello

Six Republican Senators are asking the healthcare community for input on “recalibrating” health information technology policy, arguing that there are several problems with the current trajectory of the meaningful use program.

In a white paper titled “Reboot: Re-examining the Strategies Needed to Successfully Adopt Health IT,” the Senators argue that the federal health IT program has been hindered by a lack of progress on interoperability, billing increases sometimes associated with EHR adoption, oversight and patient privacy concerns, and financial sustainability beyond the federal incentive payments for providers buying IT systems.

Click here to view white paper.

“We hope stakeholders can provide information about the areas of concern we have identified, any additional areas of concern, and potential solutions to improve HITECH implementation,” wrote Senators John Thune of South Dakota, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, and Mike Enzi of Wyoming, in a letter broadly addressed to the American healthcare community.

They cited concern that “CMS does not yet seem to have an adequate plan to achieve secure, meaningful interoperability.” While lauding the ONC and CMS for delaying Stage 3 meaningful use rule development, the Senators say that the program in Stage 2 “continues to focus less on the ability of disparate software systems to talk to one another and more on providing payments to facilities to purchase new technologies.”

The “failure to systematically and clearly address meaningful groundwork for interoperability at the start of the program,” they wrote, “could lead to costly obstacles that are potentially fatal to the success of the program.”

Among other concerns, the Senators cited so-called “code creep,” increased billing that some have said actually reflects more accurate accounting of services rendered. The Senators also cited something they and some others consider more problematic: habitual copy-and-pasting patient data, by some clinicians possibly weary or inexperienced with computers, which can lead to potentially serious medical errors.

“The ability to quickly and easily generate documentation data deserves careful scrutiny as both a benefit and a risk of increased use of health IT,” the Senators wrote. “Without proper oversight it is especially concerning, particularly in light of the way the Medicare system currently uses claims data instead of patient outcome-based information to reimburse providers and monitor global changes in clinical patterns and practices.”

Article written by Anthony Brino

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