AHA: Meaningful Use needs work, not an overhaul

While both the American Hospital Association and Healthcare Innovation Council, led by health IT consultancy Anthelio, agree with several Meaningful Use concerns laid out by Republican lawmakers in a white paper published last month, AHA officials say the program should not be rebooted.

In a letter to the six senators who authored the paper, AHA Executive Vice President Rick Pollack (right) says that despite "uneven progress" that has led to a "digital divide" among hospitals, the reimbursement horse essentially is out of the barn.

"Any interruption in incentive payments … would be unfair to those who have made strategic plans and large investments based on the policies in place today," Pollack says.

Conversely, however, the Healthcare Innovation Council makes no bones about a desire to see Meaningful Use overhauled. In its own comment letter, interim CEO Rick Kneipper contends that the federal incentive program is not living up to "lofty" expectations for improving care, despite more than $30 billion being allocated to the program.

"Are we getting our money's worth from such a huge investment in taxpayer dollars?" Kneipper (left) asks. "Why are we, both as healthcare providers AND as consumers of healthcare [as well as taxpayers] not seeing noticeable improvements in quality, coordination, continuity and improved process from providers who have implemented [electronic health records]?"

Kneipper instead says that the program is causing providers to lose focus on patient care in an attempt to "chase 'Meaningful Use' dollars."

A coalition of consumer organizations--led by the Consumer Partnership for eHealth and the Campaign for Better Care--recommends that the Meaningful Use program be strengthened, and perhaps even accelerated.

To learn more:
- here's the AHA letter (.pdf)
- read the Healthcare Innovation Council's letter (.pdf)