EHRA critiques GOP’s MU ‘reboot’ plan

May 21, 2013 in Medical Technology

One month after six Republican Senators published a white paper calling for a new approach to the federal meaningful use incentive program, the HIMSS Electronic Health Record Association has drafted a point-by-point response.

In their April report, “Reboot: Re-examining the Strategies Needed to Successfully Adopt Health IT,” GOP Senators John Thune of South Dakota, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Pat Roberts of Kansas – all of whom voted against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act when it first came before the Senate in 2009 – expressed concerns about the $35 billion allocated for health IT adoption as part of the stimulus bill.

They took issue with what they said is paltry progress on system interoperability so far, raised alarms about unnecessary billing enabled by EHRs, sought better oversight of the MU program, called for more stringent patient privacy protections and wondered about the chances for long-term health IT sustainability.

[See also: Republican senators seek ways to improve HITECH implementation.]

Stage 2 meaningful use, the senators wrote, “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.”

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They called for a new approach to rule-making from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and the Centers for Medicare Medicaid Services, lamenting that a failure “systematically and clearly address meaningful groundwork for interoperability at the start of the program could lead to costly obstacles that are potentially fatal to the success of the program.”

In a May 16 letter addressed to Thune et al., executives from EHRA, a trade group representing more than 40 EHR vendors, including Siemens, Allscripts, Greenway, Practice Fusion, NextGen, Cerner, McKesson and GE Healthcare IT, wrote that they “agree that in order for providers to best leverage health IT towards the aims of meaningful use and interoperability, Congress and the administration as well as providers and health IT developers will have to work together closely.”

Still, EHRA had some “additional perspectives” on the senators’ five areas of concern with regard to meaningful use.

When it comes to interoperability, EHRA made the case that “Stages 1 and 2 of the EHR Incentive Program and ongoing industry efforts have made significant advances toward broad interoperability.”

The letter points to “growing numbers of health information exchanges (HIEs) and the availability of newer models of exchange (e.g., the Direct protocol and Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) document management profiles).”

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