HHS Commits To Working With Senate on EHR Adoption Issues
April 24, 2015 in News
On Thursday, HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell told lawmakers that the agency was “committed” to working with the Senate to address issues related to electronic health records, Health Data Management reports.
During a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing, lawmakers expressed concerns about barriers to EHR adoption under the meaningful use program (Slabodkin, Health Data Management, 4/24).
Under the 2009 economic stimulus package, providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHRs can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments.
Specifically, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said he was dissatisfied with the current state of EHR systems, expressing concern about the amount of federal money that has been spent to subsidize the shift to EHRs (Attias, CQ News, 4/23).
Alexander said, “The government has spent $28 billion subsidizing [EHRs],” yet “half [of] the doctors are choosing not to participate in the program” and instead will “face Medicare penalties this year.”
He added that physicians largely are dissatisfied with their EHR systems because they “disrupt the workflow” and “interrupt the doctor-patient relationship” (Health Data Management, 4/24).
Alexander noted that he and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the ranking Democrat on the HELP committee, have established a bipartisan working group to identify up to six problems with EHRs that can be addressed through administrative or legislative action (CQ News, 4/23).
According to MedCity News, Alexander asked Burwell if HHS would assist the working group in creating and acting on the list during the next 21 months.
Burwell agreed to help, saying, “I think we’ve got a working group of staff ready to go” (Versel, MedCity News, 4/23). She added that HHS “is looking forward to putting the list (of EHR issues) together and looking forward to getting it done.”
Sens. Seek ICD-10 Support for Small Providers
Meanwhile, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) during the hearing said he was concerned about the potential negative effects of the upcoming ICD-10 transition deadline, Health Data Management reports.
U.S. health care organizations are working to transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10 code sets by Oct. 1 to accommodate codes for new diseases and procedures.
Lankford said, “The concern is that there’s not going to be a smooth transition,” which could result processing and payment disruptions.
Such “gaps in payments” could have a particularly negative effect on small providers, according to the Lankford.
However, Burwell said that “there’s only a very small group that is not ready,” noting that in the time leading up to Oct. 1, HHS will “continue to work” with providers to avoid such problems.
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) recommended that HHS delay penalties for at least two years as “people transition” to ICD-10 to accommodate small providers (Health Data Management, 4/24).