Stakeholders at odds over call for EHR incentive payment freeze

In the wake of a letter calling upon the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to suspend Meaningful Use incentive payments until HHS reconfigures interoperability standards of health IT, industry stakeholders have added their voices to the conversation.

Four House Republications sent a letter to HHS on Oct. 4, calling Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements "weaker" than Stage 1 rules. In particular, Reps. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Wally Herger (R-Calif.) and Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) cited that Stage 2 requirements eliminate Stage 1 final rules that required providers to test information exchange abilities.

The four representatives are not the only ones discontent with the journey to health IT adoption. Twila Brase, president of the Citizen's Council for Health Freedom's (CCHF) wants to entirely raze the federal involvement of electronic health records. Brase stated that she supports the market leading the way for EHR adoption.

"Left to it's own devices, the market would fix interoperability issues on its own, while creating better protections for sensitive health data, or else patients would solve the problem themselves by carrying their private data on portable media such as DVDs or thumb drives," Brase said in a statement. "No EHR program should move forward until every American has a guaranteed right of consent over the use and sharing of their private medical records."

The Healthcare Information Management & Systems Society, on the other hand, acknowledged more work needs to be done, but presented data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to support the claim that "adoption of secure, interoperable health IT systems continues to grow." According to CMS, over 2,700 eligible hospitals and 73,000 Eligible Professionals have attested to Meaningful Use Stage 1 requirements since it's inception.

Additionally, HIMSS offered results from HIMSS Analytics' May 2011 data which found "steady increases" in eligible hospitals achieving higher scores on the HIMSS Analytics EMR Adoption Model. For example, in the seven-stage model, 11.5 percent of eligible hospitals are at Stage 5 in 2012 Q3, up from 6.1 percent in 2011 Q2.

"HIMSS supports the concept of graduated complexity of Meaningful Use; this stepped approach recognizes evolutionary maturity of adoption and implementation of health IT--all of which serves as the foundation for healthcare transformation," the organization stated.

To learn more:
- read the CCHF statement (.pdf)
- here's HIMSS's official statement