HHS Issues Final Strategic Report on Reducing HIT-Caused Provider Burden

Feb. 21, 2020
The report reflects additional input from the more than 200 comments submitted in response to the draft strategy and recommendations

Following up on a draft version issued more than a year ago, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today released its official report, “Strategy on Reducing Regulatory and Administrative Burden Relating to the Use of Health IT and EHRs.”

This 73-page report describes examples of electronic health record (EHR)-related burden, as well as strategies and recommendations that HHS and other stakeholders can use to help clinicians focus their attention on patients rather than paperwork, when they use health IT.

The development of the report, required under the 21st Century Cures Act, was led by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), in conjunction with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The initial draft, issued in November 2018, represented HHS’ assessment and response to feedback heard from a wide variety of health IT stakeholders, from practicing clinicians to health IT developers.

Now, the report released today reflects additional input from the more than 200 comments submitted in response to the draft strategy and recommendations. The report outlines three primary goals and offers recommendations to:

1.            Reduce the effort and time required to record information in EHRs for healthcare providers when they are seeing patients;

2.            Reduce the effort and time required to meet regulatory reporting requirements for clinicians, hospitals, and healthcare organizations; and

3.            Improve the functionality and intuitiveness (ease of use) of EHRs.

Specifically, ONC and CMS looked at four key areas and offered strategies to address each area:

             Clinical documentation

             Health IT usability (or ease of use of health IT tools and systems)

             Federal health IT and EHR reporting requirements

             Public health reporting (including coordination with prescription drug reporting programs and electronic prescribing of controlled substances).

These goals and focus areas remained consistent from the draft iteration to the final version. Stakeholders were encouraged to comment on the document up until January 28, and some of the public feedback centered around emphasizing patient safety and improving care coordination through effective API (application programming interface) use; the importance of prioritizing data availability at the point of care and within the clinical workflow; and reducing provider administrative and reporting requirements

The report explains that different types of administrative burden can affect different healthcare providers, but is focused on those healthcare providers that are directly involved in delivery of patient care. Those may include physicians, nurses, and other clinical staff; practice managers and other administrators immediately engaged in the management of care delivery; and care delivery institutions, such as hospitals.

Said HHS Secretary Alex Azar, “We received feedback from hundreds of organizations and healthcare providers on this new burden-reduction strategy, and the input made clear that there are plenty of steps still necessary to make IT more usable for providers and maximize the promise of electronic health records.”