Medical groups rebel against meaningful use HIT program

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The American Medical Association (AMA) and 110 other medical associations have asked U.S. lawmakers to intervene in the meaningful use (MU) program before physicians decide to no longer participate in the initiative, designed to spur the adoption of healthcare IT.

In a November 2 letter to leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives, the associations detailed their concerns over the Obama administration's plans to move ahead with implementing stage 3 of the meaningful use program, "despite the widespread failure" of stage 2. The meaningful use program was created in 2009 with the passage of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act.

"While the overall goal established by Congress in the HITECH Act, namely to promote widespread adoption of electronic health records by physicians and hospitals, has largely been achieved, the stage 3 requirements are inconsistent with the goal of promoting better coordinated and high-quality patient care," the associations wrote. "Congressional action to refocus this program is urgently needed before physicians, frustrated by the near impossibility of compliance with meaningless and ill-informed bureaucratic requirements, abandon the program completely."

The associations, which included the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO), American College of Cardiology (ACC), American Society of Echocardiography (ASE), American Society of Nuclear Cardiology (ASNC), and Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions (SCAI), said that the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has "continued to layer requirement upon requirement, usually without any real understanding of the way healthcare is delivered at the exam room level."

Only 12% of physicians have been able to successfully participate in stage 2 of meaningful use, despite more than 80% of physicians having electronic health records in their practice, according to the associations. The program has led to some negative consequences, such as physician time being diverted from patient care to data entry, patient records being filled with unnecessary documentation that is unrelated to providing high-quality care, and new barriers to exchanging data and other information across care settings. They noted that the administration has been urged to take a different path toward achieving Congress' vision in the HITECH Act.

"We believe that the success of the program hinges on a laser-like focus on promoting interoperability and allowing innovation to flourish as vendors respond to the demands of physicians and hospitals, rather than the current system where vendors must meet the ill-informed check-the-box requirements of the current program," they wrote.

The associations said that the Obama administration has not responded to this need and instead has elected to "perpetuate the current failed program through the release of stage 3." It's unrealistic to expect that doing the same thing over and over again will result in a different outcome, the letter said.

"We believe, therefore, that it is time for Congress to act to refocus the meaningful use program on the goal of achieving a truly interoperable system of electronic health records that will support, rather than hinder, the delivery of high-quality care," they wrote.

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