ONC official: Meaningful Use 'just a start'

Electronic health records and health IT are critical to success in health reform and new payment models, such as accountable care organizations and capitated risk contracts, according to a panel of stakeholders speaking at CMS' fourth eHealth Summit in Baltimore May 19.

The panelists, speaking on health IT and its impact on care delivery and payment reform, pointed out how EHRs are being tailored to improve care.

"You can't expect to get clinical data for all places so we also take claims data and put it into the EHRs to populate medication lists, health maintenance, immunizations and diabetic eye exams," Larry Garber, chief medical information officer for Worcester, Massachusetts-based Reliant Medical Group, said. "So when I get an alert, I truly know that the patient is overdue."

Margot Savoy, medical director, Family Medical Centers and Youth Rehabilitation Services for Christiana Care Health System in Delaware, expressed concern that there still are many different ways that an EHR can store information, rendering reports inaccurate, and that patients don't like it when providers' faces are in the computer.

"I'm not sure if Siri for EMRs is coming soon," she said.

Kevin Larsen, medical officer for Meaningful Use for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, pointed out that the agency is working to support widespread adoption and deployment of health IT, including through standards development and measure alignment.

"Meaningful Use as a program is just a start, it's not the end all and be all," Larsen said. "Health IT is one of the change agents of my time. It is truly transformative to health systems and patients' lives."

There has been recent concern about the growing disconnect between EHRs and the Meaningful Use program and the need to change the program to better meet the needs of providers and patients.