Hatch wants to pause, reassess Meaningful Use

Despite lauding technology's potential to transform healthcare for the better, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said he thinks Meaningful Use needs to be reassessed.

At a Senate Finance Committee hearing yesterday focusing on how health IT can improve care quality, Hatch said that now might be a good time to "push the pause button" on the program to ensure that it's working as advertised.

"The federal government cannot afford to spend money on programs that don't yield results," Hatch (pictured) said. "At the same time, providers can't afford to invest in systems that don't work or have to be overhauled a year later as requirements change."

In April, six Republican senators, not including Hatch, called for the Meaningful Use program to be rebooted.

National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari, who attended the hearing, defended the program, testifying that the Meaningful Use objectives are "strongly aligned with other policy drivers to help" the healthcare system to become safer and more efficient. When asked by Hatch if a break from the program would be a good idea, Mostashari responded that doing so would interrupt momentum being built.

"A pause would stall the progress that's been hard fought," he said.

Patrick Conway, chief medical officer at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, agreed with Mostashari, testifying that increased EHR adoption will improve the quality of care for CMS beneficiaries.

"EHRs are more than simply a record of patients' medical history," Conway said. "EHR data can be used to display information in ways that are beneficial for providers and their patients. … By providing tools and incentives for EHR adoption, quality reporting, e-prescribing and patient engagement in their healthcare, CMS is encouraging clinicians, hospitals and beneficiaries to use HIT as a platform for improved healthcare quality and better health outcomes at lower cost."

The committee will hold a second hearing on health IT's impact on care quality on Wednesday, July 24.

To learn more:
- watch the full hearing
- read Hatch's statement
- here's Mostashari's testimony (.pdf)
- read Conway's testimony (.pdf)