House committee approves bill to stabilize EHR meaningful use requirements
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A House committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would change electronic health record meaningful use requirements so they don't have to become stricter over time.
If Congress passes the bill, it could make meaningful use compliance easier for providers and help them avoid penalties. That in turn could cut down on providers' significant hardship requests when they can't attest to meaningful use because their electronic health records are lacking.
Currently, the HHS secretary is required to make meaningful use requirements more "stringent" over time, per the Social Security Act, as amended by the HITECH Act. Lawmakers hoped that would encourage providers to improve their EHR use.
But the meaningful use program has had frequently shifting requirements and deadlines, which has been "troublesome" for providers, said Leslie Krigstein, vice president of congressional affairs at the College of Healthcare Information Management Executive.
Under this new bill, the HHS secretary would no longer be required to make meaningful use requirements stricter over time.
The bill itself is very simple and very short, according to Robert Tennant, director of health information technology policy at the Medical Group Management Association.
"All it does it give the secretary more discretion," Tennant said.
But the implications could be far-reaching. "By giving the secretary more discretion, more folks will be successful, and therefore there will be a reduction in hardship exceptions," he said.
If the bill passes—though Krigstein called its chances "slim"—it could even have effects outside of meaningful use. Members of CHIME have told the organization they're choosing between continuing popular IT initiatives, such as telehealth, and dedicating resources towards meeting meaningful use, Krigstein said.
"Ensuring that there is stability and proven value in the measures associated with the meaningful use program will be immensely beneficial to CIOs, clinicians and, most importantly, patients," she said.
The bill might also have symbolic importance.
"This is a signal from Congress that quality reporting programs shouldn't be constructed in such a way to almost ensure that a significant number of providers will be unsuccessful," Tennant said. "The whole point of these types of program is to lift up providers, to give them the tools and resources they need to provide higher quality and more efficient care."
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