CDC National Center for Health Statistics recently let out a report describing the rate of which physicians used EHR systems from the most recent dates available. In the year 2009, Congress passed the HITECH Act in order to implement financial incentives for EPs to start using EHRs. These incentives were first brought out through the EHR MU program, and since the passing of this law, lawmakers have noticed steady uptake of these products.
CDC’s 2013 report says that 67.5 percent of office-based physicians in all specialties reported an EHR system, which conforms to the standards set by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) for CEHRT systems. In the year after, this figure went up to 74.1 percent.
These statistics sure seem promising for the adoption of EHRs, but practitioners have been slow to actually start using their health IT in the ways that policy makers want to see. There is an indication in the report that 52.2 percent of physicians with CEHRT were not sharing the health information of their patients electronically with providers, or with hospitals outside of their own practice.
With improvement in EHR adoption rates, providers are now facing heavy financial burdens in buying these technologies, and they will show diffidence in the face of uncertainty whether the EHR product will meet the interoperability requirements of the program. Providers face negative payment adjustments if they fail to meet these requirements, although CMS has been light-handed in their enforcement. Recently, the agency has even eased the application process of obtaining hardship exemptions that guard against such penalties.
The AMA conference saw admin Andy Slavitt make remarks, which indicate that CMS rulemaking for MACRA will address hardships ensured by providers tying to utilize health IT. On top of that, HIMSS national conference in Las Vegas elicited a pledge between vendors, healthcare systems, and providers, who collectively make up more than 90 percent of the EHR market. This involves them working together to achieve interoperability and improve data blocking practices.
The group promised to set up Federally recognized national interoperability standards, policies, and practices for electronic health information, as well as adopt streamlined practices to deal with privacy and security.
Congress has also been striving to address EHR issues. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (HELP) has greenlit numerous bills in February, such as the S. 2511, the Improving Health IT Act. This bill is set to put in place a star rating system for CEHRT products, and promote interoperability. Passing of the bill garnered unanimous consent with the committee. Taken up to full Senate body, its passing there would require reconciling it with the current Health IT legislation.