News Feature | July 18, 2013

Providers Tell Senate EHR Technology Has A Long Way To Go

Source: Health IT Outcomes
Greg Bengel

By Greg Bengel, contributing writer

Senate

Although EHR systems have the potential to improve the quality of healthcare, poor design, inconsistencies, and lack of incentives stand in the way of provider acceptance

EHR systems show plenty of potential to help providers produce data and coordinate improvements in patient care. However, several healthcare providers testified to the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance on June 26 that much of the technology is falling short.

PhysBizTech reviews relevant testimony from providers concerning the issue, specifically that of Mark McClellan, MD, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. McClellan discussed two roadblocks EHRs face in producing and reporting on data, the first being how difficult it is to piece together data from different sources and track specific patients. According to McClellan, this is because “many of the traditional electronic record systems haven’t been very well-designed.”

A second roadblock, according to McClellan, is that the meaningful use incentive payments are based solely on whether a provider has a system capable of tracking patients, not on whether they are actually doing it. McClellan called for “meaningful use payments and other payments that really do support doctors in using their systems to put this data together and then reporting on it from their electronic record systems.” You can read McClellan’s entire testimony here.

As big a hurdle as simply having a system capable of these outcomes is, it is not the biggest hurdle. iHealthBeat quotes Christine Cassel, CEO of the National Quality Forum, as telling the committee that while a majority of physicians and hospitals have adopted EHR systems, “this has not yet translated into accurate electronic capture and reporting of performance results as part of the care process.”

Elizabeth A. McGlynn, director of Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Effectiveness and Safety Research, also discussed EHR technology at the hearing. McGlynn pointed out large inconsistencies between EHR systems utilized by larger healthcare systems and those implemented by smaller practices. She says the systems used by smaller practices simply are not capable of extracting and reporting on the proper data. “I think it’s a harder climb [for them] because frankly [their systems] aren’t optimized for use right now,” McGlynn is quoted as saying in PhysBizTech.  Read her full testimony here.

HIMSS Health IT News further quotes McGlynn as saying the federal government “has an important leadership role to play” in helping health care providers improve patient quality of care. She alluded that the increased adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) provides new opportunities for measurement that are more meaningful to doctors because electronic data can be available for use without unnecessary delays.