The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) should make sure that the new electronic health record (EHR) incentive program promotes use of EHR systems that work well together.
A group of Republican House members that includes House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., and House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., gave that recommendations in a letter they sent earlier this month to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
“It is highly counterproductive for providers to have purchased EHR systems that cannot ‘talk with one another,’” the lawmakers said in the EHR letter, which was posted on the Ways and Means Committee website.
HHS also should make other EHR incentive program standards tougher, the lawmakers said.
Today, the lawmakers said, HHS simply requires that an EHR summary follow a patient who moves to a new care setting just 10 percent of the time.
HHS also is requiring that radiology and laboratory orders be electronic just 30 percent of the time, the lawmakers said.
That requirement “is woefully inadequate,” the lawmakers said.
The lawmakers were reacting to an EHR survey report released by the Bipartisan Policy Center, a think tank set up by former Senate majority leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole and George Mitchell.
Health policy specialists have been arguing for years that the U.S. health care system could work better if doctors, hospitals, insurers, patients and others could share patient health and health insurance information through convenient, reliable data networks.
Members of Congress included funding for a formal EHR adoption incentive program in the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The EHR incentive program is supposed to encourage doctors and hospitals that treat Medicare patients to shift to EHR systems by paying bonuses to providers that show they are moving toward “meaningful use” of the systems.