Legislators, health experts: EHRs not optimal yet

At a Senate Committee on Finance Hearing Wednesday, industry officials testified that though electronic health record systems are doing well in improving healthcare quality, there's a long way to go for the technology to be optimal, Healthcare IT News reported.

One major concern was the number of quality measures the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services uses--committee chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) mentioned that there are more than 1,000 in its quality reporting and payment programs.

Mark McClellan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, called the amount of measures an "awful lot" and suggested that CMS call for fewer and more outcome- and patient experience-oriented measures.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) asked McClellan about the promise EHRs hold, to which McClellan said while there is potential, there also are "significant roadblocks." He added that many systems haven't been well-designed.

McClellan also criticized Meaningful Use incentives because they are linked to whether the provider has the system capable of tracking patients, but not if they're actually using it.

"One way to better align the payments that providers are receiving and further the goals of getting better quality information out--especially around outcomes and improving the quality of data--[is] to move toward Meaningful Use payments and other payments that really do support doctors in using their systems to put this data together and then reporting on it from their electronic record systems," he said.

National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari recently said that he expects physician dissatisfaction with electronic health records to rise as implementation goes beyond the early adaptors, and said that physicians won't necessarily see a return on investment if they're involved in fee-for-service medicine, since much of the benefit of EHRs is focused on quality, safety and engagement, which aren't reflected in reimbursement.

A study published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association concluded that EHRs could improve patient care coordination among providers if they were better designed for such functionality.

To learn more:
- read the Healthcare IT News article