Appearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions www.help.senate.gov, Robert Wergin MD., President of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) www.aafp.org presented his ideas on the challenges and concerns affecting the adoption of health IT.
He told the Committee, “Four years ago, my practice implemented an EHR system and the initial results weren’t pretty. Transitioning from paper to electronic files was expensive, time consuming, and resulted in a decline in the productivity in my office.”
He continued to say, “When we worked and studied the system, productivity improved. Although our daily patient volume has not yet returned to pre EHR volume, my clinic is running more smoothly than it did initially because my staff and I have adapted to the technology. We have embraced the change and the benefits have been numerous.”
Dr. Wergin presented his key recommendations to the Committee:
- The current documentation requirements need to be overhauled. Current standards are time consuming and have led to bloated medical records emphasizing billing information rather than helpful important clinical data
- The Meaningful Use 90 day reporting rule is good but also HHS should establish a minimum threshold necessary to meet the Meaningful Use standards instead of their all or nothing requirement
- The administration needs to take steps to put an ICD-10 contingency plan in place. Although the initial testing reports were favorable, physicians have been advised to take out loans to prepare for potential billing denials.
- Congress and the administration must step up efforts to require interoperability. HHS needs to strengthen certification requirements to advance interoperability requirements
- Congress should take action to delay federal penalties for Meaningful Use until interoperability is achieved
- Until national standards are established, EHR vendors should be required at a minimum to use open Application Programming Interfacing (API) technology which experts indicate would significantly advance interoperability by the end of 2016
- Review current consumer and privacy data protections. Patients’ information should be fully protected and not hoarded for commercial purposes. Physicians should not be at the mercy of their vendors and be charged by their vendors for accessing their own patients’ data.
- Congress should consider amending medical privacy laws to strengthen consumer protection in ways that address both patients concerns as well as physicians’ data management responsibilities
Dr Wergin summed up the state of EHR adoption by saying, “Successful EHR adoption is a road stakeholders must travel together with physicians, insurers, government agencies, patients, hospitals, community health centers, and with other health providers.”
He further stated, “It is not enough for manufacturers and vendors to simply build the products and point physicians on their way—they must accept their responsibility to travel this road with physicians and hospitals that purchase and rely on their systems.”