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By Alex Ruoff
Dec. 8 — Health industry lobbying groups are at odds over whether the federal government should delay the last stage of the federal electronic health record incentive program.
Delaying Stage 3 of the meaningful use program would compromise the progress health-care organizations have made in improving the interoperability of their health IT systems, a group of health and technology companies led by the Health IT Now Coalition, Intel, Oracle and Verizon told congressional leaders in a Dec. 7 letter.
The group urged lawmakers to oppose any legislation that would alter the meaningful use program without first offering reforms to improve the electronic exchange of health records among health-care providers.
“Delay without reform would rob taxpayers and patients of cost savings while doing absolutely nothing to make the program work well for overburdened doctors and hospitals,” the letter said.
The group's request came after the American Academy of Family Physicians sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell urging a delay to Stage 3. The AAFP has also repeatedly asked Congress for a delay to Stage 3.
In addition, the GOP Doctors Caucus also asked House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in a letter to delay Stage 3 and called for other technology reforms.
The meaningful use program pays incentives to physicians and hospitals for using federally certified electronic health records. To date, the program has paid more than $32 billion in Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments to more than 479,000 providers and more than 5,000 hospitals. Physicians who don't meet Medicare EHR program requirements could be subject to lower Medicare reimbursements.
The AAFP and the Doctors Caucus said the meaningful use program hasn't promoted the use of health technologies that can improve the quality of care doctors provide their patients.
The groups said health-care providers are growing increasingly dissatisfied with their EHRs and the program's requirements.
“EHRs should be a tool for success in a physician's practice, not an obstacle to overcome,” Robert Wergin, chairman of the AAFP's board of directors, said in a statement.
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