Groups want to push back health IT deadlines

Provider and industry groups say the proposed deadlines are too aggressive

Health care providers and industry groups want the Health and Human Services Department to push back the proposed deadlines for adopting health information technology and receiving federal incentives.

HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT is preparing to recommend a definition for "meaningful use" of health IT under the economic stimulus law. The law provides substantial financial incentives to doctors and hospitals that use health IT according to that definition.

On June 16, the department’s Health IT Policy Committee considered a proposal from one of its workgroups for three tiers of meaningful use, with corresponding deadlines in 2011, 2013 and 2015. The committee plans to consider modifications to the proposal when it meets July 16.

Several groups that commented on the proposal, including the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association, have asked for delays and reduced requirements under the proposed deadlines.

AHA said only about 8 percent to 12 percent of hospitals have electronic health record systems, many of which are basic, and the proposed deadlines are too aggressive.

In a June 26 letter to Dr. David Blumenthal, national coordinator for health IT, AHA officials wrote, “Because successful computerized provider order entry implementation depends on other electronic health record components, requires significant cultural changes and entails significant costs, CPOE should not be required until 2015 or beyond.”

They also urged that existing organizations focused on medical quality endorse any measures required to demonstrate desirable outcomes in health care, such as reducing preventable medical errors by half. “The draft definition [for meaningful use] includes many measures that do not exist,” they wrote.

Furthermore, AMA officials said rules attached to the 2011 deadline should be limited in scope and urged HHS to be realistic about the amount of time physicians will need to adopt and adjust to health IT.

Other health care groups also recommended easing the deadlines.

“We believe most of the measures proposed for 2011 would be difficult to achieve by providers who have not already begun electronic health record implementations,” officials at the Certification Commission for Healthcare IT wrote in a June 26 letter to HHS. They also recommended simplifying meaningful-use measures for 2011 or postponing them until 2013.

The Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society have also written to HHS asking the agency to adjust deadlines included in the draft proposal.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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