AMA joins industry call for revisions to Meaningful Use

Feb. 27, 2014

The American Medical Association (AMA) has joined the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) and 46 of the nation's largest physician and hospital organizations to call for additional time and flexibility in the meaningful use program.

In a letter
 delivered to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the AMA and other organizations noted that “additional time and new flexibility are vitally important to ensure that hospitals and physicians continue moving forward with technology to improve patient care. By making such changes, HHS would be demonstrating needed flexibility to maximize program success, without compromising momentum towards interoperability and care coordination supported by health IT.”

From the beginning of the meaningful use program, the AMA has urged the federal government to adjust the rule's aggressive and rigid criteria to ensure a safe, orderly transition so electronic health records (EHRs) can be widely adopted and safely implemented throughout the health care system.

Attempting to transform the entire health system in such a rapid and prescriptive manner has produced undesired consequences that often impede, rather than enable, efficient clinical care. Physician experience has shown that EHR systems in use today are cumbersome to operate and unable to “talk” to each other, preventing the transmission of patient medical information when it is needed.

“The AMA is increasingly alarmed that the meaningful use program continues to move full steam ahead without regard to the challenges faced by physicians, hospitals and vendors during the past few years,” said AMA President Ardis Dee Hoven, M.D. “Continued difficulties experienced in the current program are a clear sign that federal requirements must be revised. Greater flexibility for physicians is needed to meet the meaningful use requirements and avoid unfair penalties, and less proscriptive certification criteria will help vendors better focus on the clinical needs of their physician customers.”

A recent collaborative study
 by the AMA and RAND Corporation found that many physicians are dissatisfied with their EHR systems and feel the technology interferes with the quality of face-to-face time spent with patients. While physicians generally expressed no desire to return to paper record keeping, those surveyed nonetheless felt they spend too much time performing clerical work and electronic documentation was degrading the accuracy of medical record keeping.

“Physicians need more training and education to learn how to best deploy and use the EHR systems they are purchasing,” said Dr. Hoven. “We have to recognize that if you require EHRs to be all things to all people – regulators, payers, auditors, lawyers – then it diminishes its ability to perform the most critical function – helping physicians support their patients.”

Physicians need well-designed systems that can help support the transition to new payment and care delivery models. The AMA will continue to urge the federal government to take the serious concerns of physicians into account when certifying systems.

Among the organizations that signed-on to today's letter included the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Hospital Association, the Federation of American Hospitals, the Medical Group Management Association and the National Rural Health Association.

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