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February 16, 2018 – Electronic Health Record Mandates: The Cure is Worse than the Disease

 

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What is the Electronic Health Records Incentive Program?

In 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) established the Electronic Health Records (EHR) Incentive Program to compel doctors and other healthcare providers serving Medicare and Medicaid patients to digitize patient health information.  Hospitals and other providers unable to meet certain “meaningful use” benchmarks may be penalized with reduced Medicare reimbursements.   

Why is the EHR Incentive Program such a bad thing?

Any reasonable medical professional recognizes that the days of pen-and-paper recordkeeping are long over.  The problem with the EHR Incentive Program isn’t the goal of digitized medical records, but rather the unnecessarily bureaucratic prod that is being used to achieve this outcome.

Over the past decade, physicians and other medical personnel throughout the country have been forced to spend more and more of their time engaged in administrative tasks.  Even worse, a significant portion of this administrative time isn’t actually being used to keep good electronic records on patients; it’s being used to show the federal government that good electronic records are being kept on patients.  Needless to say, the more time doctors spend buried in bureaucratic tasks, the less time they have to treat their patients.

What am I doing about it?

I have cosponsored a bill introduced by my House colleague Rep. Steve King that would eliminate HHS penalties on hospitals that are unable to meet the EHR Incentive Program’s unreasonable benchmarks.  This bill, H.R. 409, is awaiting action in the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health.  Additionally, I will be exploring ways to prevent HHS from punishing hospitals once the appropriations process commences in the coming weeks.

What they are saying

“The meaningful use program established by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act remains broken and unsustainable for the providers on which it has been imposed.  HR 409 repeals the destructive penalties so that providers can get back to the business they are uniquely trained to do—utilizing their skills and knowledge to heal the sick and support the continued vitality of the healthy.” – Congressman Steve King (IA-4)

“One thing we've all learned from a one-size-fits-all bureaucracy is that it leads to higher costs. This is especially true in healthcare. Removing burdensome EHR mandates will allow doctors to spend more times on their practice and patients.” – Jason Pye, Vice President of Legislative Affairs, FreedomWorks

“Electronic Health Records (EHRs) will eventually improve health and make care more cost-effective. However, many doctors view today’s federally micromanaged EHRs as costly, clinically disruptive clutter, intruding on the doctor-patient relationship. In a new paper, “From Electronic Health Records to Digital Health Biographies,” Dr. Darcy Nikol Bryan, MD, and I present an alternative vision for EHRs—more carrot than stick, more bottom-up than top-down, more seamless than fragmentary. EHRs should primarily serve patients and providers (including researchers); today’s EHRs are more the province of insurers and bureaucrats.” – Robert F. Graboyes, The Mercatus Center at George Mason University