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By Joseph Conn

Blog: CMS explanation of EHR FAQ page raises its own questions

Here's today's tip for healthcare website developers.

If you're like the CMS, and having just revamped your website, you feel compelled to issue a news release to explain how the site's frequently-asked-questions section actually works, you probably should have first asked yourself a few questions, such as this one from my colleague: "What the FAQ?"

The CMS release I'm talking about came today. It announced that the CMS has updated its system. So far, so good.

But then came trouble, under the headline: "Learn How to Directly Link to FAQs with the Updated System."

The CMS' FAQ on the electronic health-records incentive programs, which is what the e-mail was about, prints out to 10 pages and has 197 linked questions.

Now, I know it's a big country, but does the CMS really get asked 197 questions over and over again? Regardless, a FAQ list ought to max out at 10. What the CMS produced instead is not a typical FAQ but rather an index of its programmatic problems put in question form, sort of like "Jeopardy!" for health IT junkies.

"Alex, I'll try eligible professionals for $100, please."

And if scrolling through that long list of questions doesn't make your eyes glaze over, try reading the helpful instructions on how to use the search tool for FAQs:

"The Search box also allows users to perform searches by FAQ number. FAQs are still searchable by using its old FAQ number, which is listed after the word 'Keywords' below the answer of the FAQ, or by using its new FAQ number, which can be found at the very bottom of the FAQ in parentheses. When searching by new FAQ number, be sure to select the 'FAQ #' option by clicking the circle and highlighting it in blue. Please note that you cannot search by old FAQ number in the 'FAQ # Search' box. Instead, search by old FAQ numbers in the 'Text Search' box."

There are far worse things in the world than this—war, famine, the pox.

But there are better things, too, including most of the other aspects of the EHR incentive payment program. This FAQ section, unfortunately, gives credence to the old warning, "I'm from the federal government, and I'm here to help you."

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