AHA wants Congress to end Meaningful Use, tweak privacy laws and refocus ONC

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AHA asked Congress to pare down or eliminate more than 40 federal regulations, including several health IT requirements.

Onerous health IT regulations are a prominent fixture in a long list of complaints submitted to Congress by the country’s foremost hospital association.

In a letter (PDF) to Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, who serves as chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means’ Subcommittee on Health, the American Hospital Association listed more than 40 areas in which lawmakers could provide regulatory relief to the nation’s hospitals. Calling the regulatory burden on hospitals “substantial and unsustainable,” AHA Executive Vice President Thomas Nickels made specific appeals to scale down or eliminate federal regulations overseeing health IT systems, patient privacy laws and health data exchange mandates.

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Many of the issues outlined by the organization echoed similar pleas made to Donald Trump weeks after he was elected president. Meaningful Use regulations have been a frequent target for other organizations that have called for the Department of Health and Human Services to delay the program indefinitely.

AHA’s health IT-specific requests included the following:

  • Cancel the Stage 3 Meaningful Use program that will force hospitals to spend “large sums upgrading their EHRs solely for the purpose of meeting regulatory requirements.” Earlier this month, CMS released a final payment rule that made Stage 3 optional for hospitals in 2018, but AHA wants Congress to take that a step further.
  • Suspend electronic Clinical Quality Measure (eCQM) reporting requirements that require hospitals to invest in upgrading technology to collect and report data that doesn’t accurately measure quality of care.
  • Relax information blocking oversight—specifically two attestations outlined by CMS that require hospitals to respond in a timely manner to data exchange requests and implement technology that supports bidirectional data exchange.
  • Allow systems to share patient data among all providers within an integrated system without requiring a direct relationship with the patient.
  • Align privacy protections for patients with substance abuse disorder with HIPAA regulations by passing the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act, a bill supported by the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.
  • Limit the focus of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT to standards development and EHR certification oversight to ensure health IT products are interoperable.
  • Expand telehealth coverage under Medicare and Medicare Advantage to allow broad access to virtual services.