The GAO took aim Friday at HHS and the CMS, saying the agencies have inadequate measures in place to gauge their own progress in promoting the use of healthcare information technology in collecting hospital quality-of-care data.
While noting that HHS has issued numerous contracts to promote healthcare IT and that it has created the American Health Information Community to advise the department on IT policy, HHS has identified no detailed plans, milestones, or time frames for either its broad effort to encourage IT in healthcare nationwide or its specific objective to promote the use of health IT for quality data collection, according to the latest report from the federal watchdog agency.
The reports title summarizes the GAOs key recommendation, HHS Should Specify Steps and Time Frame for Using Information Technology to Collect and Submit Data.
GAO researchers based their report on interviews with CMS and HHS officials and on studying IT usage at a sample of eight hospitals in various stages of IT system implementation. Of the eight, in only one instance could an abstractor entirely rely on electronic health records to develop the quality report for that hospital, according to a table summarizing the processes used by the hospitals. Six other hospitals had to use combinations of paper and electronic records. At one hospital, all records used were on paper. But even at the hospitals where IT systems were available, those systems largely were ill suited to the task of data abstraction required for quality reporting, the GAO reported.
The case studies showed that existing IT systems can help hospitals gather some quality data, but are far from enabling hospitals to automate the abstraction process. -- by Joseph Conn