Lack of EHR interoperability is 'fraud' against taxpayers

Electronic health record vendors--particularly Epic--may not deserve Meaningful Use incentive money because their systems hinder data sharing, according to physician-turned-lawmaker Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.).  

In a July 17 hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's subcommittee on Communications and Technology and Health, Gingrey (pictured) questioned whether the nation is currently on a path of interoperability or whether changes to the law need to be made. He expressed concern that according to a recent RAND report, more than half of the $24 billion spent by the Meaningful Use program has gone to Epic, a vendor operating a "closed platform."

Pointing out that the committee has jurisdiction over the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and the HITECH Act--which created the Meaningful Use program--Gingrey said that if the RAND report is true, "we have been subsidizing systems that block information instead of allowing for information transfers, which was never the intent of the [HITECH] statute.

"It may be time for this committee to take a closer look at the practices of vendor companies in this space given the possibility that fraud may be perpetrated against the American taxpayer," he added.

The hearing was focused on how healthcare and technology can accelerate the pace of cures in the U.S., which is an initiative of the committee.

Gingrey is not alone in his concern about EHRs' lack of interoperability. The coalition Health IT Now, buoyed by the RAND report that decried the lack of interoperability among EHRs, recommended that Congress "decertify systems that require additional modules, expenses, and customization to share data," and to investigate business practices that prohibit or restrict data sharing in federal incentive programs.

Another recent study revealed that the current architecture for data exchange required by Stage 2 of the Meaningful Use program doesn't allow for robust patient sharing.  

ONC recently announced a new 10-year roadmap to increase interoperability, but it doesn't include penalizing systems that don't share data.

To learn more:
- here's a summary of the hearing