AHA Responds to Senators’ Call for Halting Meaningful Use

The American Hospital Association (AHA) has responded to an April RFI/whitepaper from six U.S. Senators that lists several reasons why there should be a pause and reboot of the Meaningful Use program established in the HITECH Act.

In its response letter, AHA agreed with several of the Senators’ concerns about the program, but said that the investments and progress that hospitals have made with EHRs as a result of the program far outweigh any of the negatives.

“Hospitals are making investments in certified EHRs that far outweigh the value of the incentive payments for which they are eligible,” the letter states. “Any interruption in incentive payments would be unfair to those who have made strategic plans and large investments based on the policies in place today.”

The Senators — Lamar Alexander, (R-Tenn.), Richard Burr, (R-N.C.), Tom Coburn, (R-Okla.), Michael Enzi, (R-Idaho), Pat Roberts, (R-Kan.), and John Thune, (R-S.D.) — listed several implementation deficiencies of the Meaningful Use program in the 30-page whitepaper, titled “REBOOT: Re-examining the Strategies Needed to Successfully Adopt Health Information Technology.”

The deficiencies include:

  • A lack of a clear path toward interoperability
  • Increased costs
  • Lack of oversight
  • Patient privacy risk
  • Program sustainability

The AHA letter addressed several of these concerns, concurring that it is concerned that Meaningful Use rules are so complex that only 45% of hospitals have met Stage 1 requirements and Stage 2 might not even be doable. That has resulted in a “digital divide” of successful EHR implementation between large, urban providers and small, rural ones, the organization states.

But the AHA also pointed out in the letter that it recently submitted a list of recommendations for removing barriers to the success of the program to the Department of Health and Human Services. These included:

  • Strengthening the certification requirements for exchange
  • Fostering effective and affordable exchange networks
  • Establishing provider directories to allow providers and patients to determine where to send electronic care summaries and other health information
  • Supporting successful adoption and use of standards by providers
  • Creating a single, national approach for matching patients with their records
  • Reducing policy barriers to exchange, such as varying consent and privacy rules

“We believe these federal actions will be essential to moving forward with interoperability,” the letter states.