Healthcare News & Insights

Feds: We won’t pause EHR incentive program

Despite calls for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to do so, federal officials say they have no plans to suspend incentive payments for meaningful use of electronic health records. 

Earlier this month, four Republican senators sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius urging the agency to temporarily pause the federal EHR incentive program.

The problem is that the rules for Stage 2 of Meaningful Use are a step backwards in the government’s push to use technology to improve health care, according to the Congressmen, who accuse HHS of lowering requirements to pad participation rates. According to the letter, many requirements are weaker than those in Stage 1, and the Stage 2 rules will do little to improve care and efficiency. For example, Stage 2 eliminates the need for providers to exchange information with other providers, replacing that objective with a requirement to provide summary of care records, even though interoperability between EHR systems is key to improving care.

To keep from moving forward and wasting more money on a flawed incentive program — and to avoid convincing providers to purchase EHR systems without key features and functions — the Congressmen are asking HHS to stop sending EHR incentive payments until the Meaningful Use rules require interoperability between EHR systems and the requirements increase the thresholds required for providers.

HHS: We won’t suspend EHR incentives

However, National Health IT Coordinator Farzad Mostashari recently downplayed those demands. Speaking at the College Healthcare Information Management Executives’ (CHIME) CIO Forum, Motashari said he agreed with an earlier statement from CHIME arguing that it’s best to avoid making a harsh judgement right now, because Stage 2 of the Meaningful Use rules won’t even go into effect until 2014.

And later at the event, a representative from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said it would be unlikely for the GOP to halt the EHR incentive program unless there is a regulatory revision and maybe even an act from Congress, Healthcare IT News reports.

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