HHS OIG: EHRs remain a top management challenge

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) has once again identified the meaningful and secure exchange and use of electronic health information as one of the 10 biggest management and performance challenges facing HHS in the coming year, according to its latest report.

The report, released Nov. 18, noted several concerns in particular, including the dropout rate in the Meaningful Use program. According to the report, 16 percent of providers who received a Meaningful Use incentive payment in 2011 left the program in 2012; 19 percent dropped out in 2013. The apparent abandonment of the program by many threatens HHS' goal of interoperability and "presents challenges to achieving the benefits promised by EHRs and other health IT and could undermine the goals of some reform initiatives," the OIG warned.

Other challenges cited included problems in oversight of the Meaningful Use incentive payments, protecting sensitive information in electronic form, and safeguarding the healthcare programs from fraud.

The OIG also recommended that HHS communicate more with the industry:

"As the Department progresses through the development and implementation of Meaningful Use stages, it should continue to consider feedback from stakeholders to ensure that adopted policies advance the Nation towards the Department's stated goals, while appropriately reflecting the changing health IT landscape. Guidance and technical assistance should be issued to address adoption, Meaningful Use and interoperability barriers and program integrity safeguards."

The report additionally suggested that, given the large investment in EHRs and health IT, HHS will need to demonstrate and measure the extent to which its goals have been met.

Other top challenges include overseeing the health insurance marketplaces and ensuring the safety of food, drugs and medical devices. Some of the challenges indirectly impact EHRs, such as fighting waste and fraud and providing value in Medicare Parts A and B.

The OIG, which provides oversight of more than 300 HHS programs, continues to ramp up its scrutiny of EHRs as their use becomes more common.

To learn more:
- here's the report