Feds Release Draft EHR Rules – Critics Attack

The federal government last week finally unveiled its proposed definition for the “meaningful use” of electronic health records. Almost immediately, there were critics.

Physicians and hospital systems have been waiting for these definitions for many months. Last winter, as part of the sweeping federal stimulus bill, Congress set aside $20 billion to subsidize physicians, hospitals and others who install electronic health records and demonstrate their “meaningful use.” For physicians, that subsidy could be more than $44,000 per person over a four-year period.

So the definitions released on Dec. 30 had been eager anticipated. But almost immediately after they were released, several key stakeholders protested.

The American Hospital Association said the eligibility requirements for physicians and hospitals are too restrictive, and would penalize many hospitals that have already implemented clinical IT systems.

The Medical Group Management Association said the proposal is “overly complex,” and would discourage EHR adoption.

The American Medical Association hasn’t announced its position yet, but in initial comments it echoed earlier worries  that the time frames for implementation might be too strict.

A privacy advocacy group, Patient Privacy Rights, attacked the rules on the grounds that they don’t give patients control over their personal health information.

The 692-page proposal unveiled last week came in two parts:

The rules are the first of three phases. Phase 1 takes effect in 2011. Phases 2 and 3 – not released last week – take effect in 2013 and 2015 respectively.

David Blumenthal, MD, who leads the federal government’s health IT strategy in Washington, warned that the next two phases will introduce even more stringent criteria, because that’s what Congress wanted.

The rules issued last week are not final. A 60-day comment period begins when the rules are officially published in mid January.

Blumenthal, writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, said the insights from physicians, hospitals and others “can improve this rule.”

Like the AMA, the MMS is studying the proposals and will send in our suggestions to improve the rules’ ability to promote the adoption of electronic health records.

  1. David Wenzel says:

    “The first defined “meaningful use,” and how physicians and hospitals can qualify for federal aid” contains this hyperlink:

    http://www.federalregister.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2009-31217_PI.pdf

    For the record– it is a dead link

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