Senators Criticize Meaningful Use Program over Interoperability Issues and its Failure to Enable Providers to Adopt EHR
March 19, 2015 10:07 AM
This week, the U.S. Senate Health, Labor, Education, and Pensions (HELP) Committee convened a hearing titled, “America’s Health IT Transformation: Translating the Promise of Electronic Health Records into Better Care.” During the hearing, several senators emphasized problems within the meaningful use program, which was enacted as part of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act in the 2009 Stimulus bill.
The meaningful use program set the criteria for meaningful use of electronic health records (EHR) and established incentives for qualifying providers. It also established penalties for failure to the achieve standards. Unfortunately, the program excludes certain providers, such as home care and hospice providers, from receiving the incentives.
Among the senators at the hearing, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said the meaningful use program should be “rebooted,” emphasized the need for cooperation among providers, and criticized the program’s exclusion of certain providers from eligibility for incentives to adopt EHR.“If you’re looking at the expensive people in the health care system, a lot of them are going back and forth, cycling between nursing homes and the health care system,” said Sen. Whitehouse.
In similar criticism of the program, the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) has specifically focused on the exclusion of home care and hospice providers from the program’s incentives. NAHC stated in its Health IT Primer that one of its goals is to “include ineligible meaningful use providers such as home care and hospice.”
Due to these and other challenges, interoperability issues have plagued the meaningful use program. Many providers have failed to achieve the meaningful use standards and are facing penalties. The Committee’s Chairman, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), cited a survey that found “nearly 70 percent of physicians say their EHR systems have not been worth it.” He blamed the fact that the meaningful use program has focused on penalizing rather than enabling providers.
“Instead of government trying to make everybody do this by taking away Medicare payments, a better route would have been to find ways to enable and encourage their adoption,” said Sen. Alexander in his prepared remarks.
The hearing followed a written commentary last week by five senators—Sen. John Thune (R-SD), Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY—that reviewed the recent Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) roadmap for interoperability.
“The ONC roadmap provides a framework for responsibility, governance, and accountability in regard to the future development and implementation of interoperable EHRs,” wrote the senators. “But instead of offering specific objectives, deadlines, and action items, ONC’s roadmap falls short on the nitty gritty technology specifics that vendors and providers need when developing IT products. We are left with many outstanding questions about how to achieve interoperability and how to address the cost, oversight, privacy, and sustainability of the meaningful use program.”
NAHC will continue to provide updates on the challenges with the adoption of health information technology through its affiliated Home Care Technology Association of America.