Groups want 'streamlined,' less restrictive MU program

Growing interoperability and usability concerns with electronic health records were the impetus behind a letter sent Wednesday to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell by several healthcare associations and provider systems pushing for a revised approach to Meaningful Use. Signatories of the letter included the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the Premier healthcare alliance and the Medical Group Management Association, among others.

"Our respective members believe that the MU program and greater adoption of HIT could promote improvements in patient safety, care quality and efficiency," the letter states. "Yet, based on our collective member experience, we are facing growing barriers to achieving these goals. Without changes to the MU program and a new emphasis for interoperable EHRs/EMRs systems and HIT infrastructure, we believe that the opportunity to leverage these technologies will not be realized."

The letter outlines a four-pronged approach to tackling Meaningful Use and health IT problems. Recommended steps include:

  1. Streamlining and focusing ONC certification requirements on interoperability, quality measure reporting and privacy and security: The letter calls current certification requirements "heavy handed," and emphasizes that a "flexible" standard based on application program interfaces--also recommended by the JASON task force in its final report to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT--will lead to more creative and "usable" tools
  2. Fostering collaboration among stakeholders to promote development of new health IT
  3. Removing "restrictive" Meaningful Use policies
  4. Allowing ample time for vendors and providers to develop, test and deploy new tools before accountability to Meaningful Use requirements

"Our organizations remain concerned that without changes, the forward trajectory of the MU program will be in jeopardy," the letter states.

The letter comes on the heels of a separate letter sent to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner and National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo by AMA CEO and Executive Vice President James Madara in which his organization shares a blueprint to refocus and revamp the Meaningful Use program. In that letter, Madara warns that the incentive program is increasing costs and burdens on physicians while decreasing efficiency, interrupting access to patient information and jeopardizing patient safety.

On Wednesday, ONC's Health IT Policy and Standards committees held a joint meeting to discuss a draft interoperability road map created by ONC. The road map is meant to guide industry interoperability efforts over the next decade.

To learn more
- read the letter (.pdf)