At the CNS News website today, Barbara Hollingsworth references a new GAO report and writes, "The federal government’s six-year-old, $30 billion Electronic Health Records (EHR) Incentive Programs – which were designed to cut medical costs by allowing doctors and hospitals serving Medicare and Medicaid recipients to share test results and clinical data – are having the opposite effect."
Hollingsworth continued her reporting:
"Representatives from 10 of 18 non-federal, non-profit participating organizations interviewed by GAO between April and September said that program requirements “divert resources and attention from other efforts to enable interoperability.”
"As a result, the costs of trying to combine incompatible patient records is forcing medical costs up instead of down.
“Sixteen of the 18 initiatives are working to address the challenge of the reported high costs associated with interoperability,” GAO reported.
The EHR incentive program was funded under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act as part of the 2009 stimulus legislation.
"But Stage 2 of the program is so complex that only about 11 percent of the 491,000 eligible physicians and 42 percent of the nearly 4,500 eligible hospitals have been able to comply with it, according to Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), one of five Senate committee chairman who requested the GAO study.
"Representatives from five of the groups interviewed “suggested pausing or stopping the programs” altogether because differing technical standards and variations in state privacy rules are making the goal of interoperability difficult to reach, the GAO reported."
She concluded by noting the views of two critics, saying:
"But critics point out that achieving EHR interoperability poses a threat to patient privacy.
“Given the absence of patient consent requirement for data sharing, the lack of interoperability is all that protects Americans from a nationally imposed breach of their medical privacy,” said Twila Brase, president of the Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom.
“If a personal, computerized medical record is considered so essential, why not simply scan anything pertinent onto a thumb drive for the patient, so he alone has control of it and can decide who will have access?” asked Lawrence Pivnik, MD JD, a contributing fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA)."
The U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO report (No. GAO-15-816, September 2015) is entitled, "Nonfederal Efforts to Help Achieve Health Information Interoperability." A one-page summary is here.
GAO identified their reasoning for performing the audit this way:
"EHR interoperability is viewed by many health care stakeholders as a necessary step toward improving health care. However, interoperability has remained limited. Although the federal government plays a key role in guiding movement toward interoperability, many of the actions are to be completed by nonfederal stakeholders.
"GAO was asked to review the status of efforts by entities other than the federal government to develop infrastructure that could lead to nationwide interoperability of health information. This report describes the (1) characteristics of selected nonfederal initiatives intended to facilitate EHR interoperability, and (2) key challenges related to EHR interoperability and the extent to which selected nonfederal initiatives are addressing these challenges. GAO interviewed representatives from 18 selected nonfederal initiatives that were frequently mentioned by stakeholders GAO interviewed, and reflected a range of approaches. GAO reviewed documents from these initiatives as well as other published research."
John R. Graham, a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) and a financial, economic, and policy analyst in the health sector for Forbes magazine posted a health alert yesterday urging the cancellation of any meaning use of Stage 3 electronic health records at NCPA's Health Policy Blog, saying in part:
"Over one quarter of the members of the U.S. House of Representatives – 116 of them – just signed a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services urging delay of the next step in the federal government’s struggling effort to impose uniform federal requirements for health information technology.
"The rule in question is Meaningful Use Stage 3 (MU3), imposed by the federal government via the HITECH Act of 2009. The so-called “stimulus” act committed almost $30 billion to induce physicians and health facilities to install Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and move patient records beyond clipboards and manila file folders. These are worthy goals. Unfortunately, the $30 billion has pretty much all been spent, and there is precious little to show for it."
There are several related posts available there, too.
Have a few minutes to write your Congress Critter? Tell them you're tired of the continued waste, fraud and abuse in federal government programs. They need to hear you growl, in addition to knowing your positions on federal government spending. Contact information is available at Thomas (use left-hand column). Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County, can contact:
- Senator Mark Warner (D) - write to him or call (202) 224-2023
- Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
- Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376
Ask for a written response, and tell them ACTA sent you. And kudos to the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) for continuing to publish meaningful and understandable analyses of public policy.