Responding to a controversial white paper released by a group of Republican Senators last month, former Allscripts CEO Glen Tullman wrote a guest post on Health Data Management defending the EHR Incentive Program and meaningful use. Quoting futurist Roy Amara, who said that “we tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run,” Tullman says that while many people are impatient to see the results of meaningful use, taking a detour or significantly pausing the program will only lead to slower progress towards interoperability, safe patient records, and reduced healthcare costs.
“When you go to the hospital, most of the time it is still too difficult to pull your health records from a rival hospital or even from your own primary care doctor. Different electronic health record systems rarely talk to each other,” Tullman admits. “It is true that the agencies overseeing the incentives should insist on better compliance with interoperability. Some software vendors, including one of the largest, build walls around their data when they should be building roads into it instead. “
But that’s where meaningful use has made – and continues to make – an impact. “The industry is stepping in where the regulations have not been aggressive enough” in order to take advantage of meaningful use incentives. “As someone who helped start and grow one of the largest electronic prescribing and electronic health record companies, my main response to the Senators’ report is concern that it might slow our progress,” Tullman says. “These critics are focused on a few trees while the forest as a whole keeps growing and growing.”
Focusing on the limitations of the first steps of meaningful use is counterproductive, he adds. The program is still in its infancy, and waiting until it matures to measure the full effect of EHR adoption is vital. “Washington needs to see the future benefits from having a connected system of health with patients, physicians and caregivers empowered with information,” he says. “That’s a future that won’t need to be rebooted.”
Tullman joins CHIME, the HIMSS EHR Association, and a consortium of consumer groups in responding to “Reboot: Re-examine the Strategies Needed to Successfully Adopt Health IT”, which was authored by Senators John Thune, Lamar Alexander, Pat Roberts, Tom Coburn, Richard Burr, and Mike Enzi. The paper suggested that meaningful use and the HITECH Act have thus far failed in their mission to promote interoperability, reduce healthcare costs, and keep patient information safer due to a lack of oversight and questionable program sustainability. The white paper continues to draw comments from prominent healthcare groups, some of whom argue that meaningful use is right on track, and some of whom advocate for a delay to Stage 3 to allow providers more time to navigate the program.