Home > EHR, meaningful use, Medicare > Bipartisan Call for ‘Reboot’ of Meaningful Use at Senate HELP Committee Hearing

Bipartisan Call for ‘Reboot’ of Meaningful Use at Senate HELP Committee Hearing

On March 17, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) convened for the first full committee hearing on health information technology since 2009. The hearing, “America’s Health IT Transformation: Translating the Promise of EHRs Into Better Care,” focused on interoperability and health information exchange (HIE) in the context of the extensive federal investments made through the Medicare/Medicaid EHR Incentive Program (or “Meaningful Use”).

Witnesses from the family physician, patient, EHR vendor, and academic communities universally criticized the lack of flexibility in the existing MU regulations as well as insufficient progress toward true interoperability. Committee members from both sides of the aisle were likewise critical of MU, including those who were originally supportive of the HITECH Act. The bipartisan nature of the criticism was perhaps indicative that the Hill’s patience with the Department of Health and Human Services on MU implementation is finally wearing thin.

The most compelling statements of the hearing came from Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), previously an MU advocate, in which he questioned subsidizing cars (borrowing the frequently used EHR-as-automobile analogy) and then asking providers and physicians to build the roads on their own. He suggested that MU is currently focused on the most remote points of connectivity, physicians, despite a lack of federal governance and support for sharing data. He called for a “reboot” of the MU program with a new focus on supporting participation in HIE networks.

Senator Whitehouse also pointed out that the federal government has a role to play in preventing abuses by vendors and others who lack true interoperability in order to generate revenue through restrictions placed on connectivity among different systems and providers. This is a common issue for ambulatory radiology practices seeking to connect with ordering physicians and hospitals. Other problems were discussed as well, including the lack of EHR cost transparency for product consumers and anticompetitive practices by hospitals.

Moving forward, the Senate HELP Committee plans to discuss the issue again in the coming months and potentially engage in a legislative effort to fix and refocus the EHR Incentive Program.

Categories: EHR, meaningful use, Medicare
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  1. July 24, 2015 at 11:18 pm

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