Health Information Management

News: Physicians frustrated with government EHR regulations

CDI Strategies, August 6, 2015

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As helpful as electronic health record (EHR) systems may be, physicians say headaches due to government regulations on EHRs outweigh the benefits, according to an American Medical Association (AMA) town hall meeting in Atlanta, July 20. The meeting allowed physicians to air their concerns, frustrations, and successes with EHRs and CMS’ Meaningful Use incentive program.

“The message from physicians is loud and clear: electronic health record systems have so much potential, but frustrating government regulations have made them almost unusable,” said AMA President Steven Stack in a blog post, following the meeting.

He was joined July 20 by U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), a former medical director at the orthopedic clinic at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. The input will be used to send a message to Congress on what’s working and what’s not, Stack said.

Additionally, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) chairman of the Senate health committee wants CMS to delay the third and final stage of meaningful use to address problems with the incentive program. The committee, which is holding hearings with industry experts on interoperability, recently (July 23) heard discussions regarding information blocking, according to an article in the HIM-HIPAA Insider.

Information blocking refers to obstacles that prohibit electronic sharing of a person’s health information between computer systems. Such obstacles, intentional or not, derail efforts to share data across platforms and systems, and subvert the intention behind EHR systems, Alexander explained in prepared remarks prior to the hearing.

For instance, a patient who is typically treated at Hospital A is admitted to the emergency department at Hospital B. Hospital A engages in some form of information blocking, which prevents Hospital B from gathering information about the patient. This may occur because Hospital A refuses to share the information—possibly for privacy reasons or concerns about data security—the two EHR systems can’t talk to each other, or Hospital A wants to charge the other hospital a large fee to send the records.

“It might be physicians and hospitals blocking patient information from being shared with competing physicians and hospitals to keep patients,” Alexander said. “Or it might be electronic health records vendors blocking information so they can increase their market share.”

The numerous physicians who spoke at the AMA meeting expressed frustrations at significant ongoing costs associated with EHRs, burdensome regulations, less time spent with patients, and decreased productivity and efficiency.

One physician, Melissa Rhodes, who works in pulmonary critical care and sleep medicine, confessed she was “fed up” and doesn’t expect to participate any longer in the Meaningful Use program. Her three-physician practice will just take the penalty instead.

Editor’s Note: For additional information, read the article “Physicians say regulations thwart meaningful use of EHR technology,” in HIM-HIPAA Insider

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