GOP Senators Issue Report on HITECH Problems

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The Republican senators point out that so far the government has gotten a poor return on the billions it has invested in electronic health record (EHR) “meaningful use” incentives as EHR systems in use by different provider groups are not yet interoperable. In addition, the senators the cited studies showing that in some cases, EHR systems may actually be leading to more testing and higher health care costs by simplifying the test ordering process.

The 28-page report was issued by a group of six Republican senators led by John Thune (R-S.D.). In it, the senators call the advancement of EHR systems that was mandated by the 2009 passage of the Health Information Technology and Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, a “laudable goal.” However, they quickly go on to say that the way it has been carried out so far is not working and the health IT program is in need of a “reboot.”

What concerns them foremost is that $35 billion of taxpayers money has been invested so far and the promised savings EHR adoption would deliver through a reduction in medical errors, and a decrease in duplicative and wasteful testing has yet to be realized.

Besides a concern that EHR adoption may be increasing health care costs rather than decreasing them, the senators’ report also raises concerns about whether providers (especially small ones) will be able to continue to invest in their EHR systems once the government’s meaningful use incentive payments stop in 2015, and concerns about the government not demanding better patient privacy protections in EHR systems.

Finally, the senators say there has been a lack of oversight in the program to avoid fraud and abuse. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) did recently move to audit providers’ attestations for EHR meaningful use incentives. It hired contractor Figliozzi and Company to conduct the Medicare audits and issued guidance to eligible providers about how pre- and post-payment audits would be conducted. However, this may be coming to late for the Republican senators.

Read the report here.