Lawmakers release comments on call for 'reboot' of Meaningful Use program

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Six Republican senators have released public comments on their April request to U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for a written plan on how HHS is implementing the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act.

Their 28-page paper entitled "REBOOT: Re-Examining the Strategies Needed to Successfully Adopt Health IT" outlined their concerns with current health IT policy, including the costs, interoperability, the potential for waste and abuse, patient privacy and sustainability.    

Among the stakeholders' responses, according to a post on the website of Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.): 

  • Several provider and vendor groups said the lack of interoperability requirements under Meaningful Use is a major barrier to data exchange.
  • Physicians and physician groups were concerned that the Meaningful Use requirements do not take into account the scope or size of a practice.
  • The American Medical Association, physicians and other physician groups were frustrated with the user experience of some electronic health record systems that do not fit smoothly into physician workflows.

In addition to Thune (pictured), the senators include Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Pat Roberts of Kansas (R-Kan.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.).

The Republican senators' request was worded much more civilly than a letter four House Republicans sent to Sebelius last October that called "weak" Meaningful Use rules a "waste of taxpayer dollars," FierceEMR pointed out. Still, HHS did not respond by June 16 as the senators requested.

Judy Murphy, deputy national coordinator for programs and policy at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, speaking at a symposium in April, called criticism of the current lack of focus on interoperability "misguided."  Stage 2 of the program, which includes greater focus on interoperability and patient engagement, doesn't go into effect until next year.

She said one of the biggest problems with interoperability deals with the way physicians practice--in silos--rather than working collaboratively to treat patients.

To learn more:
- read Thune's post
- find the full list of stakeholder group comments

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