Senate hearing on EHRs focuses on Meaningful Use problems, interoperability

In what Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) called a "wrap-up session" during a hearing Thursday focused on electronic healthcare records, the health committee chairman outlined five reasons to delay finalizing Stage 3 of Meaningful Use.

Alexander's reasons included:

  1. Poor compliance: Stage 2 requirements are so complex that only 12 percent of eligible physicians and 40 percent of eligible hospitals have complied, he said. Rushing to finalize Stage 3 would only add to their frustration.
  2. The new Medicare Merit-Based Incentive Payment System will only increase pressure on providers to get Meaningful Use right; participation in the program will be worth 25 percent of a score that determines whether a doctor is paid a bonus for Medicare or issued a fine.
  3. Leading provider organizations, too, are calling for more time to develop the Stage 3 rule.
  4. A Government Accountability Office report unveiled this week in which some entites interviewed said that Meaningful Use requirements have diverted resources from interoperability efforts.
  5. The committee's work with the administration to develop seven areas of agreement for legislation to achieve interoperability. The final rule should be consistent with the goals of that legislation, Alexander said.

"Stage 2 is not a success," he said. "The administration has revised its rules for Stage 2; most people believe it'll be a big help to adopt that final rule immediately. I've urged that those rules for Stage 2 be adopted immediately.

"Stage 2 now, Stage 3 in a year," Alexander added, touching on statements he made last month on delaying the final stage until 2017.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) kicked off the hearing by asking witnesses Karen DeSalvo, National Coordinator for Health IT, and Patrick Conway, Deputy Administrator for Innovation and Quality and Chief Medical Officer at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, about the government's interoperability roadmap and how such efforts will be able to keep up with how fast technology is changing.

"In the last year and a half we have been taking a shift and have been working in a more open fashion with the technology private sector," DeSalvo said.

She also spoke about the interoperability standards advisory as an action developed with the private sector and with the tech industry to reiterate it and keep up with the times.

Conway added that they have "significantly reduced the total number of measure and requirements, try to simplify the program and really focus on high-level requirements to not stifle innovation."

To learn more:
- listen to the hearing