GAO: Meaningful Use Program Lacks Comprehensive Strategy

March 7, 2014 in News

HHS should establish performance measures for its meaningful use program that would help the agency “track progress toward program outcomes, such as health care quality, efficiency and patient safety,” according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office, Health Data Management reports (Slabodkin, Health Data Management, 3/6).

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.

Report Details

For the report, GAO analyzed data from CMS and other sources, reviewed laws, regulations and guidance and conducted interviews with HHS officials and stakeholder groups. As required under the HITECH Act, GAO:

  • Examined current and expected participation in the EHR programs;
  • Evaluated HHS’ efforts to ensure EHR data can be used to measure quality of care;
  • Reviewed HHS’ efforts to assess how the program is meeting adoption and meaningful use goals, as well as improved outcomes; and
  • Reviewed data reported by providers and others to measure meaningful use (Monegain, Healthcare IT News, 3/7).

Report Findings

In its report, GAO acknowledged that HHS has established some performance measures that are linked with strategic goals. However, the report finds that while HHS “expects that the use of EHRs can help achieve improved outcomes and support other efforts that are also intended to improve care, that result is not yet assured.” 

It added that CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT may lack the information needed “to establish program priorities and subsequently make program adjustments based on progress toward outcomes” (Health Data Management, 3/6).

According to GAO, the “lack of a comprehensive strategy limits HHS’ ability to ensure the department can reliably use the clinical quality measures collected in certified EHRs for quality measurement activities,” adding that these limitations persist despite CMS and ONC’s efforts to address them (Healthcare IT News, 3/7).

Recommendations

GAO recommended that HHS develop:

  • A comprehensive strategy to bolster the reliability of clinical quality measures collected through EHRs; and
  • Outcome-oriented performance measures in order to monitor progress.

In response to the report, HHS said it agreed that such monitoring is important. However, the agency did not disclose whether it concurred with the recommendations (Health Data Management, 3/6).

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