The HITECH Act of 2009, a $30 billion component of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus, encouraged healthcare providers to use Electronic Health Records (EHRs) in their facilities. The ultimate goal is to digitize medical records to encourage interoperability and data sharing among healthcare providers. “Interoperability” measures include, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO): reviewing results from other procedures, evaluation of test results regardless of the location of the test, sharing basic and critical information, and providing a complete medication list.
Medical industry organizations and other stakeholders have been pushing back against The Meaningful Use Stage 3 (MU3), the third installment of the EHR incentive program, for years. Opponents claim that it does not promote the “interoperability” of EHRs. An issue brief from the National Center for Policy Analysis cites that the rule itself has complicated file access and sharing. According to the brief, major causes of this issue include cost, insufficient standards, variation in state privacy laws, and accurately matching patients’ health records with identifier fields.
The newest criticism of the MU3 requirement comes from a group of 16 healthcare organizations. The Urgent Care Association of America, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, the Medical Group Management Association, and Premier Inc., among other groups, stated in a letter to the new Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, that they believe the MU3 requirement, “has failed to deliver the level of interoperability needed to facilitate seamless information sharing across different providers and has imposed a series of burdensome mandates on providers that increase the cost of care and often do not lead to better outcomes.” This letter sought an indefinite delay of the MU3 rule.
In the GAO report cited above, several EHR initiatives outside of the federal government stated, “the government is not flexible enough to account for changing technologies and should, therefore, leave this issue to the private sector” and that the various regulations regarding ERMs divert funding from improving interoperability. However, supporters of the measure believe that intervention is necessary to facilitate the change to digital records in medical centers.