Docs lament 'all-or-nothing' MU compliance standard at second AMA town hall

The American Medical Association (AMA) continued its effort to reshape the Meaningful Use program, holding a second town hall meeting Sept. 29 to enable physicians to share their suggestions and experiences.

The meeting, held in Waltham, Massachusetts and co-sponsored by the Massachusetts Medical Society, focused in large part on the disconnect between physicians' "embrace" of technology in general and how the Meaningful Use program has diverted resources and stifled innovation as physicians struggle to comply with the regulations.   

AMA president Steven Stack (pictured), speaking at the event, called physicians "digital omnivores" who adopt technology at a "blistering pace," and called the Meaningful Use program successful by the measure of EHR adoption but not in terms of interoperability or efficacy.

Many physicians in attendance relayed their experiences with EHRs and the much maligned incentive program. Several identified themselves as early adopters of EHRs who were positive about the systems in general, but not Meaningful Use, which is seen as an administrative burden that is not tailored to meet different physician specialties. Some referred to the program as a "tyranny of structured data."

A number of doctors expressed particular frustration with the program's "all-or-nothing" compliance standard and the disproportionate pressure on physicians, not on vendors or insurers. One physician lamented that both hospitals where he works are switching to Epic, but that the two EHR systems can't share data with each other, even though they're from the same vendor. Another pointed out that the education materials in his EHR, which he was required to generate and produce to patients to meet Meaningful Use, were inferior to the materials he could provide from his medical society.

Several other physicians reported using workarounds just to meet the requirements, such as putting a computer in the waiting room and having a staff member show patients how to send the message "hi" to the physician to meet the electronic communication requirement.

The first town hall, held July 20 in Georgia, prompted thousands of physicians to share their stories about EHRs and how Meaningful Use impacts their use. Stack stressed that the feedback is needed to make Meaningful Use better, especially since there are still two "open" rules on it. The rule implementing Stage 3 of the program and the rule softening the rules through 2017 currently are under review at the Office of Management and Budget.

Lawmakers and others have called for Stage 3 of the Meaningful Use program be delayed and reevaluated in recent days.

To learn more:
- check out the AMA's website to gather physician feedback