Healthcare providers need continued regulatory relief, as physicians, nurses and other hospital staff spend at least 30 minutes on paperwork for each hour of actual care for a typical Medicare patient, according to the American Hospital Association.
"Every time the nurses, physicians and other healthcare workers care for a patient, a host of regulations and statutes govern their very actions, especially if the patient is a Medicare or Medicaid recipient," says David Bernd, chairman-elect of the AHA and CEO of Sentara Healthcare in Norfolk, Va.
In the emergency department, a full hour of paperwork is generated by every hour of patient care, Bernd says, citing a 2001 study the AHA commissioned from PricewaterhouseCoopers. Bernd notes that state, local and private-payer regulations create an additional burden, factors the PwC report did not evaluate.
Bernd's remarks were part of his testimony Wednesday at a hearing on healthcare access and affordability before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services.
He commends the work done by HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson's Advisory Committee on Regulatory Reform but says Congress should urge HHS and CMS to do more to reduce the regulatory burden and establish clear guiding principles for healthcare regulation.
A report from the HHS advisory committee last year included 255 recommendations, several of which have been implemented, with others currently being put into effect. Bernd recommends several additional areas for reform:
- Reforming the requirement of the HIPAA medical privacy rule for hospitals to account for disclosures, instead allowing hospitals to give patients, at admission, a list of the types of disclosures that may be made.
- Revising the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act of 1986, or EMTALA, so that its provisions do not apply to inpatients.
- Allowing providers direct access to courts to challenge HHS Medicare policy decisions.
- Simplifying data collection processes through system interoperability.
"Our first priority is to provide high quality care," Bernd says. "While some regulations contribute to this goal, others drain much needed resources, placing a strain on our hospitals and the men and women who work there."