How HHS Plans to Make Health IT Easier to Use

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The agency wants to hear from doctors on how to make the tech more seamless in their day-to-day activities.

The Health and Human Services Department is exploring ways to make health IT as efficient and effective as it’s billed to be.

The agency on Wednesday asked the medical community to weigh in on its strategy for making tech like electronic health record systems less complicated and time-consuming for physicians. The report, issued by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, primarily advocates for cutting regulations and reporting requirements around the systems.

Electronic health record systems and other health technologies are intended to give people more control over their medical data and improve doctors’ ability to treat patients. But in reality, many physicians find the tools don’t live up to that promise.

“Although clinicians and other health care providers point to the implementation, use and regulation of health IT and the EHR as a key support tool for care delivery, it remains a source of ongoing frustration,” officials said. “They argue that the EHR has introduced new challenges or failed to address existing ones despite intending to improve the practice and experience of medicine.”

The tools have given providers “unprecedented” access to patient data, according to the report, but doctors told the agency the tech’s hefty compliance requirements divert time and money away from patient care.

To decrease the burden, HHS is considering reducing the amount of information providers need to provide on every patient visit and simplifying reporting requirements for federal EHR programs. Officials are also exploring ways to standardize the process for ordering treatments and prescribing medications.

Beyond tedious compliance measures, many health IT systems cause providers headaches because they’re just plain hard to use. HHS found systems are often implemented in a way that doesn’t mesh with existing workflows, which slows down doctors’ day-to-day practices.

The agency suggested organizations make basic tools function the same across their various EHR systems and work more closely with users when designing the platform. Information on medications, treatment orders and test results should also be more consistent across platforms, officials said.