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Meaningful Use Relief Bill Reintroduced in Senate

US Senators John Thune (R-S.D.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Pat Roberts (R-Kans.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) recently reintroduced the Electronic Health Record (EHR) Regulatory Relief Act (S. 2059), legislation that would provide regulatory flexibility and hardship relief to address compliance burdens faced by EHR users. Similar legislation was introduced in the 114th Congress. 

"Health information technology, especially the advancements in electronic health records, is an integral part of the future of America's health care delivery system," Thune says. "Our bill ensures that unnecessary regulatory burdens do not continue to negatively affect providers' ability to leverage technology to improve patient care. With such strong and continued support for this legislation, I'm hopeful it will lead to swift and meaningful action in the Senate." 

"The American Medical Association says that for every hour doctors spend with patients, they spend two hours on electronic health records and desk work," Alexander says. "This legislation will help reduce the regulatory burden doctors and hospitals have faced under the Meaningful Use program so they can instead focus on treating patients. I encourage the Senate to pass this bill to take a step towards getting our electronic health records system out of the ditch." 

"The use of electronic health records in our health care system has the potential to revolutionize patient care," Enzi says. "But if we want electronic health records to work for providers and patients, we have to provide relief from unrealistic and burdensome requirements and build flexibility within the program. This bill will let hospitals and physicians maximize their use of electronic health records and allow our health information technology systems to move in to the future with a focus on the needs of patients." 

"Health information technology holds the promise of improving patient care and better utilizing taxpayer funds," Roberts says. "However, the meaningful use program has made health information technology nearly unworkable for our doctors and hospitals. This legislation provides much needed regulatory relief to the program so our health care professionals can spend more time focusing on what they do best—caring for patients."  

"Electronic health records have the potential to greatly improve care and these common-sense policies can help achieve that goal," Burr says. "I am pleased to be working with my colleagues to provide greater flexibility to hospitals and doctors to support their efforts to provide quality care to all North Carolinians."   

"As doctors, we best spend our time looking into a patient's eyes to make sure that she knows even though she has cancer, she has hope—not clicking on a computer screen to document something unimportant to her, but required by someone far removed from the exam room," Cassidy says. 

The senators' legislation would shorten the reporting period for eligible physicians and hospitals from 365 days to 90 days, relax the all-or-nothing nature of the current program requirements, and extend the ability to apply for a hardship exception from the meaningful use requirements. Additionally, as implementation of the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System continues, the legislation would direct Health and Human Services to consider forthcoming recommendations from the Government Accountability Office with respect to ensuring flexibility in assessing physician performance. 

Click here for a summary document of S. 2059, here for legislative text, and here for information on past work by the Senate's HIT working group, Re-Examining the Strategies Needed to Successfully Adopt Health IT, of which Thune, Alexander, Enzi, Roberts, and Burr are original members.

Source: Senator John Thune