D.C Report: Stage 3 Gets Test Run in Front of Health IT Committee

Dec. 3, 2012
This week, the Federal Advisory Health IT Policy Committee heard from a handful of workgroups and the Privacy Tiger Team about their thoughts on Stage 3 Meaningful Use, set to hit the streets sometime in 2016. For those of you who might think it a little premature to think about Stage 3, the Corner believes there’s no time like the present.

Stage 3 Rules Get Test Run In Front of Health IT Policy Committee This week, the Federal Advisory Health IT Policy Committee heard from a handful of workgroups and the Privacy Tiger Team about their thoughts on Stage 3 Meaningful Use, set to hit the streets sometime in 2016.  For those of you who might think it a little premature to think about Stage 3, the Corner believes there’s no time like the present.  For those who are stricken with a case of masochism, check out  thispreview of measures and objectives for Stage 3.  Click herefor thoughts on information exchange in Stage 3 and here areclinical quality measures.  It is expected that the HIT Policy Committee will be sending out a Request for Comment (RFC) in November to industry and other stakeholders to return sometime in late December.

Congressional Leaders Ask for ‘Immediate Suspension’ of Meaningful Use Payments In a letter sent to Secretary Sebelius this week, four ranking members of the House Ways & Means and Energy & Commerce Committees called on HHS to “immediately suspend” EHR Incentive Payments.  The Republican congressmen say that “HHS is squandering taxpayer dollars by asking little of providers in return for incentive payments.”

“More than four and a half years and two final Meaningful Use rules later, it is safe to say that we are no closer to interoperability in spite of the nearly $10 billion spent,” the letter says.

The authors of the letter are:

  • Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI),
  • Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI),
  • Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Wally Herger (R-CA), and
  • Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-PA)

The letter calls into question many aspects of Stage 2 final rules, suggesting that Meaningful Use requirements have become less stringent.  For example, the congressmen write that “Stage 1 final rules required providers to test the ability to exchange information with other providers, while Stage 2 eliminates this requirement for Stage 1.”

“As a result,” the letter continues, “hospitals and physicians who are deemed Stage 1 ‘meaningful users’ are not required to know with certainty whether their systems are capable of exchanging information.”

The letter also mentions recent controversies revealed by the New York Times and others regarding “upcoding” and “cloning” facilitated by EHRs.  “Perhaps not surprisingly,” the letter suggest, “[the] EHR incentive program appears to be doing more harm than good.”

The congressional leaders conclude by warning, “Continuing down the current path will further exacerbate Medicare’s looming bankruptcy, create demand for billions of dollars in additional incentive payments once interoperability standards are finally put in place, and further frustrate providers.”

Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans Call for HIT Workgroup As mandated by the FDA Safety and Innovation Act, eight Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans called for the creation of a new workgroup of experts from industry to create a regulatory framework for health information technology in a letter to HHS this week.  FDA has 18 months to create/update a framework for regulating information technology, including mobile devices and certain mobile medical apps – an area where much ambiguity remains in the regulatory process.

E&C Health Subcommittee Chair Joe Pitts (yes the same Joe Pitts from the Top News) and the other committee members noted that, “the popularity of mobile medical applications reflects the desire of many Americans to use technology to actively engage in their own health.”  The representatives hope to eliminate regulatory duplications, and create an environment that encourages innovation while keeping in mind patient safety, privacy and security.  The members also noted that health IT has the potential to lower healthcare costs and improve patient care.

BPC Releases Report on Accelerating Information Sharing, Protecting Privacy “A majority of clinicians believe that electronic exchange of health information will have a positive impact on health care,” says a reportout this week by Bipartisan Policy Center.  The report focuses on health information technology and how it affects the healthcare system.  BPC analyzed health IT’s role in cost and quality based on a survey of clinicians, including primary care physicians, specialists and surgical specialists ranging in size from physician groups with 100+ doctors down to single physician offices. Doctors Helping Doctors Transform Health Care created the surveyand analyzed the results in collaboration with BPC.

At a release briefing on Wednesday in DC, CHIME Member Mark Barner from Ascension Health spoke on the “Accelerating Health Information Sharing to Improve Quality and Reduce Costs in Healthcare: Insights from Health Care Leaders” panel.  Ascension Health is working on 195 go-lives to improve efficiency and care through EHRs and information sharing.  With over 30,000 affiliated physicians, they have set a goal to provide connected care to their patients.

As meaningful use is still in Stage 1, the lack of interoperability is preventing many physician groups from exchanging health data, but as vendors, hospitals and physicians look to Stage 2, the standards and certifications look to break down these barriers and increase interoperability, the report said.

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