CHIME Recommends 1-Year Extension on Stage 2 of Meaningful Use

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Rather than a “reboot” of the meaningful use incentive program — as six Republican Senators asked for last month — the program just needs more time, say executives at the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives ( CHIME).

Russell P. Branzell, president and CEO of CHIME, and George T. Hickman, board chair, sent a letter to the Senators expressing support for meaningful use in response to the letter the Senators sent to Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), in April. The Senators were concerned with how little progress the meaningful use incentive program had delivered so far on interoperability of electronic health record (EHR) systems.

The Senators specifically requested information about HHS’s progress promoting federal health and information technology adoption as mandated by the 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. At a price tag of $35 billion over 10 years, HITECH has handed out incentive dollars in hopes of motivating docs to set up EHR systems to promote the elusive ideal of true interoperability.

“Unfortunately, we have significant concerns with the implementation of the HITECH act to date,” write the Senators in the three-page letter, “including the lack of data to support the Administration’s assertions that this taxpayer investment is being appropriately spent and actually achieving the goal of interoperable health IT.”

A 27-page white paper that accompanied the letter included several ideas for how to “reboot” the HITECH Act, while also outlining five implementation deficiencies. Page 15 of the white paper specifically suggests that “misuse of EHRs may actually increase health care costs” through utilization of unnecessary and more costly procedures.

“This means that the current health IT policy may be headed in exactly the wrong direction,” write Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn), Richard Burr (R-NC), Tom Coburn (R-Okla), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo), Pat Roberts (R-Kan), and John Thune (R-SD).

However, Branzell and Hickman, while sharing some concerns with the meaningful use program, disagreed with the idea that it needs a fundamental restructuring to fulfill its goals.

“CHiME believes the industry’s guiding principle should be to maximize the opportunity of program success and monitor the timelines needed to do that,” write Branzell and Hickman to all six Senators. “For this reason, we formally and strongly recommend a one-year extension to Stage Two before progressing to Stage Three of Meaningful Use.”