Senate Panel Hears from Physicians on EHR Usability

A Senate panel last week heard from physicians, health IT experts, and provider representatives about the shortcomings and successes involved with adjusting to electronic health records (EHRs) and the “meaningful use” EHR Incentive Program.

The Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee has held two hearings in recent weeks exploring progress with EHRs, with the most recent hearing, on June 16, dedicated to physicians’ experience with EHR usability. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), who is also a physician, cited clinician frustration with EHRs, claiming that their use detracts from patient care, and said meaningful use requirements were “overly burdensome,” Health Data Management reported. He noted that some providers are opting to pay a penalty rather than comply with meaningful use requirements. According to the report. According to the article, eligible providers have taken Medicare reimbursement reductions totaling $200 million in penalties for not complying.

Panelists at the hearings took a more optimistic tone, arguing that the meaningful use program has, in some cases, pushed providers to improve workflows and meet quality measures in ways that have improved outcomes. For example, Meryl Moss, chief operating officer of Coastal Medical, testified that while the sheer number of quality measures was cumbersome, her organization was able to increase the number of elderly patients who received flu shots because the facility’s EHR stored and calculated the rates, Modern Healthcare reported.

We would recommend that incentive programs continue to reward EHR adoption, interoperability, improved patient access, and improvement of performance on quality measures,” Moss testified. “These programs help us to focus on what is most important, and provide revenue for infrastructure support that is in short supply in many physician groups. In addition to financial support, the meaningful use program organized providers and vendors around a single set of measures designed to positively impact patient care.”

Boyd Vindell Washington, MD, president of the Franciscan Medical Group and chief medical information officer of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, offered some suggestions on improving the user experience for physicians.

“Too much effort is spent recreating the attestation and documentation check boxes that existed in the paper world, which are just no longer relevant as we switch to electronic medical records,” Washington told the panel, according to Health Data Management.

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