February 16, 2012

Date Changes Could Be Coming For A Number of Federal HIT Initiatives

Filed under: CMS,EHR Incentive,ICD-10,PQRI — HankMayers @ 1:55 pm

As many of my followers probably already know, the AMA recently wrote to HHS Secretary Siebelius and House Speaker John Boehner to complain over the numerous federal HIT expectations (PQRS, E-Prescribing, EHR Incentive, ICD-10 conversion, etc) and how they are cumulatively creating an unmanageable burden for physicians. The AMA was smart enough to not say they object to any of these undertakings. They simply insisted that the government make some choices as to priority, etc.

Even for those of us who are strong supporters of extensive application of HIT to improve the quality and effectivness of health care, it was understood that a great deal was indeed being expected of an a fairly conservative industry. The AMA letter was hardly a surprise, though its timing was a bit later than I expected.

Many of us know that statements made in governmental circles usually require some analysis to be able to undertand what they truly mean. The relevant portion of the official released statement from HHS is as follows:

“ICD-10 codes are important to many positive improvements in our health care system,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “We have heard from many in the provider community who have concerns about the administrative burdens they face in the years ahead. We are committing to work with the provider community to reexamine the pace at which HHS and the nation implement these important improvements to our health care system.”

With no disrespect intended, in government-speak, a “re-examination” can mean lots of things. Some adjustment MUST result to at lease confirm that the government was listening. The pressure from the other direction is the oft-referenced need to “bend the cost curve in health care.” The 17% of GDP that is health care, plus the continually growing annual health care cost increases at the federal and state levels are truly unsustainable. HIT is universally seen as a significant factor in costs reduction and care quality improvement. So HIT implementation MUST keep moving, and moving at an agressive pace.

So, it is my view that physicians that are hoping for a major let-up in the pace and expectations for HIT innovation are going to be sorely disappointed. How HHS finally responds here is going to be a very interesting illustration of statesmanship at the national level. And, HHS cannot overlong analyze this. All of us need a fairly quick decision.

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