Docs air EHR frustrations at AMA town hall

Physicians are facing numerous challenges with electronic health records and the Meaningful Use program, and are being given a better chance to share them publicly due to a new initiative spearheaded by the American Medical Association, launched at a town hall meeting July 20.

The meeting, conducted in conjunction with the Medical Association of Georgia, was aimed at enabling physicians to "share their stories" about their experiences with EHRs and Meaningful Use in order to send a "clear message" to those in policy making, according to AMA President Steven Stack (pictured).

"EHRs have so much potential ... and yet that's not the current state of reality," Stack said at the event. He urged physicians to share their experiences, good and bad via a new website--BreakTheRedTape.org--and on Twitter using the hashtag #FIXEHR. The AMA particularly is focused on usability and the seamless flow of information, as well as the need to "pause" Stage 3 of Meaningful Use so that it can be aligned with other payment models, Stack said. Currently EHRs are blunting efficiency, diminishing their effectiveness and getting between physicians and their patients.

"We have a technology that brings graduate degree-educated people to their knees," Stack said. "There's something not right here."

He also expressed concern that the Meaningful Use program continues to push forward, even though the government knows about its problems.

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), also attending the event,  reiterated the need to speak up now since "time is running very very short;" he called the goal of Meaningful Use appropriate, but said that it's gotten off track.

"Meaningful Use sounds wonderful," Price said. "The problem is that it oftentimes is inconsistent with the product and the work that's required. He added that it's leading to "un-meaningful" and "useless" product and that it's "removing the science from medicine."  

A stream of physicians attending the town hall communicated their experiences with the systems, mostly negative, except for electronic prescribing. Areas of particular concern included workflow problems, decreased productivity, lack of interoperability, the inability to meet Stage 2 of Meaningful Use and the cost of the systems. Several stated they were so frustrated with their EHRs and/or the Meaningful Use program that they either stopped using their EHR or opted not to participate and incurred the penalty.

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