Are the requirements for eligible hospitals and professionals doing enough to help reduce disparities in healthcare? The answer to that question is no although the EHR Incentive Programs do have the potential to do so, claim the authors of a new action plan issued by the Consumer Partnership for eHealth (CPeH).
“We believe the ‘Meaningful Use’ EHR Incentive Program offers a significant, unprecedented opportunity to reduce health disparities by addressing not only the multi-faceted needs of individuals and groups, but also the overlapping needs of all populations,” states the report. “To date, this potential has not been fully realized, and it is an opportunity we cannot afford to squander.”
The patient advocacy coalition comprising more than 50 consumer, patient, and labor organizations has identified areas in the EHR Incentive Programs beginning with Stage 3 Meaningful Use — data collection and use to identify disparities; language, literacy, and communication; and care coordination and planning — where the programs could demonstrate their potential for not only improving care delivery but also reducing disparities through the appropriate use of certified EHR technology (CEHRT). Most of its recommendations stem from shortcomings in previous stages of meaningful use.
“Both Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the Meaningful Use functional criteria require providers to record a patient’s demographic information and to generate at least one list of patients by specific condition to use for quality improvement, reduction of disparities, research, or outreach,” the authors explain. “However, there is no requirement to view lists of patients by disparity variables such as race, ethnicity, language, gender identity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, or disability status. Moreover, neither stage requires anything more to explicitly identify, report, address, and reduce health disparities.”
Trying to rework earlier phases of meaningful use would provide little value, claims the CPeH action plan, now that EHR adoption is catching on and moving forward. “As we have learned from the past, retro-fitting is expensive and, in this case, unnecessary. We are past the tipping point of EHR adoption and have the opportunity to build our health IT infrastructure the right way on the first go-around,” it states.
In the end, the end goals of CPeH action plan and the EHR Incentive Programs share many similarities, none more important that population health management, which would go a long ways toward making the Patient Protect and Affordable Care Act fair. “Implementation of these recommended criteria will help reduce health care disparities and will result in a healthier population, more equitable care, and the kind of health care system all people need and deserve,” concludes the report.
Read the complete CPeH action plan and recommendations here.