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Markle Foundation, Others Weigh in on Meaningful Use

The success of the new federal incentives program for HIT will depend on a specific set of health improvement goals, a prioritized set of metrics, and the broad participation of healthcare providers and patients, according to recommendations from an extensive collaborative of organizations.

Healthcare leaders from 56 diverse organizations recently filed a joint public comment on the program, part of the economic stimulus in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Markle Foundation, the Center for American Progress, and the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at Brookings coordinated the collaborative comments on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the EHR incentive program.

“Federal rules with a clear, focused set of health goals and metrics will help move the nation closer to the day when it is commonplace for healthcare professionals and patients to communicate more efficiently and make better decisions with the aid of modern information tools,” the three coordinating organizations noted in releasing the comments.

The joint public comment recommends priorities to Health and Human Services (HHS), which will administer the new Medicare and Medicaid subsidies to doctors and hospitals for the meaningful use of HIT beginning in 2011.

The groups’ comment urges HHS to make explicit a set of health improvement goals such as improving medication management and reducing readmissions to hospitals, so that everyone—including the public—can play a role in contributing to these priorities.

“Health information technology can be a very effective tool to help providers and patients get better, less costly care. That’s why investments in health IT should prioritize key quality and outcome reporting requirements while also streamlining the administrative overhead,” says Mark McClellan, MD, PhD, director of the Engelberg Center at Brookings and former Medicare and Medicaid administrator. “Our comments lay out a feasible path toward measuring and supporting a key goal of healthcare reform—achieving better results for patients—so that providers can focus their efforts on what’s most important for reaching this goal.”

Peter Basch, MD, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, says: “As a practicing physician who has gone through the process of implementing health IT, I can say that it’s critical to set a bar that is ambitious but also achievable for the many diverse practices and hospitals that might participate in this program. We point out areas in which HHS can lower burdens on physicians without losing focus on the important goals of using health IT in ways that improve the patient’s experience and outcomes.”

The collaborative letter emphasized that the HIT program should do the following:

• Encourage broad participation of providers by prioritizing the requirements necessary to receive payments;

• Ensure that providers report only summary statistics to HHS, and not information that is patient-level or personally identifiable, and that they receive information back from the program to help them examine their own practices; and

• Enhance the ability of patients to obtain electronic copies of their health information.

Source: Markle Foundation