- On Jan 18, 2017, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) held a hearing on the nomination of Representative Tom Price, MD, (R-GA) for the lead role at the Department of Health & Human Services.
Among the matters discussed during the nearly four-hour hearing were the benefits of EHR adoption and use to the healthcare industry, namely provider productivity.
Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) voiced his hesitance over further federal support for EHR implementation based on concerns tied to its potential negative impact on the healthcare industry.
“I am skeptical about electronic health records and their negative impact on productivity,” Cassidy stated. “MD Anderson just laid off 5 percent of staff. They’re blaming it on financial losses related to decreased directly attributable to the implementation of EHR.”
To which, Rep. Price made the following remarks on EHR benefits.
“Electronic health records are so important because from an innovative standpoint they allow patients to have their health history with them at all times and allow whatever physicians or other provider access to that. We in the government have a role in that but that role should be interoperability to make certain different systems can talk to each other,” he said.
While Price believes EHR technology is important to patient care and ensuring interoperability in the healthcare industry, he maintained that the EHR Incentive Programs and their meaningful use requirements serve to obstruct rather than encourage provider productivity and positive health outcomes.
“I have had more than one physician tell me the final regulations and rules related to meaningful use requirements were the final straw for them and they quit. When that happens we lose incredible intellectual capital in our society that can care for people,” Price added.
Meaningful use requirements have drawn criticism from many in the healthcare industry as two stringent, restrictive, and burdensome since their inception. As recently as last month, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) published a letter recommending policymakers improve the flexibility of meaningful use requirements to better suit the needs of hospitals and physicians.
The recommendations CHIME sees as conducive to improving productivity for providers include a single set of health IT standards to promote seamless health data exchange, aligned quality reporting requirements across provider settings, and 90-day meaningful use reporting periods for 2017 and 2018.
“We are deeply concerned with CMS’ decision to push forward with timelines that call for Stage 3 and Stage 3-like measures beginning in 2018,” the letter stated. “Both vendors and providers need time to prepare for the requirements. For vendors that means development time and for providers that means testing and deployment.”
When asked how he plans to mitigate productivity losses resulting from meaningful use requirements, Rep. Price recommended fewer quality reporting requirements focus on outcomes rather than provider actions:
What is absolutely imperative is to find out what things ought to be determined and checked in the metrics that are used and that they actually correlate with the quality of care that’s being provided as opposed to so many things that are required right now of the physician that make it so that they’re wasting their time documenting these things but it doesn’t result in higher quality of care or outcomes being provided.
Cassidy echoed the concern that EHR technology gets in the way of the patient-physician relationship.
“We’ve turned many physicians and providers into data entry clerks,” Price said. “It detracts from their productivity but it detracts also from their ability to provide quality care.”