Trade group opposes Republican move to suspend EHR incentives

The program aims to drive secure, interoperable health IT systems.

A major health IT trade group issued a statement Monday opposing calls by House Republicans to suspend payment of incentives to providers for achieving “meaningful use” of electronic health records until the Department of Health and Human Services puts interoperability standards in place. The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society argues that the final rule defining Stage 2 meaningful use of EHRs takes steps toward interoperability –- the ability of different systems to communicate and exchange data -- with the incentive program driving overall improvement in secure, interoperable health IT systems.

HIMSS responded to an Oct. 4 letter from the Republican chairs of the House Ways and Means Committee and its Subcommittee on Health, and from the House Energy and Commerce Committee and its Subcommittee on Health. The letter, to HHS, stated that it was “critical that your agency do everything possible to advance interoperability and meaningful use of HIT, not just in name alone.”

The bar for meaningful EHR use is set too low to make a difference, the congressmen contend in the letter addressed to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

“It is highly counterproductive for providers to have purchased EHR systems that cannot ‘talk with one another’ and cannot perform basic functions because of the insufficient standards set by your agency,” they say in the letter. “You are missing an opportunity to reduce duplicative, unnecessary, and even harmful care.”

In addition to requesting meaningful-use incentive payments be suspended, the letter urges Sebelius to “significantly increase what’s expected of meaningful users” and to stop subsidizing “business practices that block the exchange of information between providers.”

HIMSS says the incentivized stages of meaningful use “recognizes evolutionary maturity of adoption and implementation of health IT, all of which serves as the foundation for healthcare transformation,” and maintains that “widespread interoperability is within reach.”