Congress has largely stayed out of the development of the incentive program to encourage adoption of electronic health record (EHR) systems by providers, but when four leading House Republicans did weigh in, they did not mince words and drew a sharp response from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).
In an October 4 letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Republicans Representatives Dave Camp (Mich.), Fred Upton (Mich.), Wally Herger (Calif.) and Joe Pitts (Pa.) expressed strong concern that the Stage 2 Meaningful Use regulations do too little to encourage true interoperability between different EHR systems and waste taxpayer dollars by handing out incentives to providers who have invested in EHR systems that “cannot talk with one another.”
Specifically, they disliked that the requirement that providers test interoperability of systems was dropped in the Stage 2 regulations. They also thought the bar was set “too low” for electronic transfers of patient summaries and for electronic ordering, including ordering of radiology services.
However, HIMSS says this view is misinformed and cited both their own HIMSS Analytics data reports and recent Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) data showing that “adoption of secure, interoperable health IT systems continues to grow.”
In its statement, HIMSS took the view that “the Stage 2 Final Rule ... moves the Nation definitively towards interoperability,” and it opposed the Republicans call to suspend the distribution of Meaningful Use incentive payments until HHS is ready with a set of standards that will create true interoperability between EHR systems and end the information silos that health care organizations operate in.