AHA Wants Meaningful Use Cancelled and the ONC Muzzled

On behalf of its nearly 5,000 member hospitals, health systems and other healthcare organizations, the American Hospital Association has penned a letter to Congress that it hopes could lead the way of doing away from a troublesome regulation introduced during the Obama administration – and that’s meaningful use.

Citing its understanding of the perceptions of its clinical partners – “including more than 270,000 affiliated physicians, 2 million nurses and other caregivers and the 43,000 healthcare leaders who belong to our professional membership groups” – the AHA, which provided its input to the Subcommittee on its Provider Statutory and Regulatory Relief Initiative, saying that those in healthcare have had enough of the regulation that was enacted in February 2009.

In its letter to the committee, addressed to Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, who serves as chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means’ Subcommittee on Health, the organization went further and listed more than 40 areas that lawmakers could provide regulatory relief to the nation’s hospitals. Calling the regulatory burden on hospitals “substantial and unsustainable,” AHA executive vice president Thomas Nickels wants Congress to reduce or eliminate federal regulations overseeing health IT systems, patient privacy laws and health data exchange mandates.

In the two-page letter, which includes another 17 pages of comments, Nickels writes: “As one small example of the volume of recent regulatory activity, in 2016, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and other agencies of the Department of Health and Human Services released 49 rules pertaining to hospitals and health systems, comprising almost 24,000 pages of text. In addition to the sheer volume, the scope of changes required by the new regulations is beginning to outstrip the field’s ability to absorb them. Moreover, this does not include the increasing use of sub-regulatory guidance (FAQs, blogs, etc.) to implement new administrative policies.”

The wave of ongoing regulation and guidance, he cautions, is just too much for most in healthcare.

One area that has the support of the AHA is telemedicine. The group is urging Congress to eliminate geographic and setting locations requirements “so patients outside of rural areas can benefit from telehealth and expand the types of technology that can be used, including remote monitoring, and to expand Medicare coverage to make services delivered via telehealth available more broadly.

Regarding meaningful use specifically, the AHA wants Congress to cancel Stage 3 saying that there is no “clear benefit” to patient care. “We urge Congress to direct CMS to cancel Stage 3 of meaningful use by removing the 2018 start date from the regulation. The Administration also should institute a 90-day reporting period in every future year of the program, eliminate the all-or-nothing approach, and gather input from stakeholders on ways to further reduce the burden of the meaningful use program from current requirements.”

Some of the other highlights from the letter include:

  • Suspend electronic Clinical Quality Measure (eCQM) reporting requirements that require hospitals to invest in upgrading technology to collect and report data that doesn’t accurately measure quality of care.
  • Allow systems to share patient data among all providers within an integrated system without requiring a direct relationship with the patient.
  • Limit the focus of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT to standards development and EHR certification oversight to ensure health IT products are interoperable.

The final point listed here may be a shot across the bow of the ONC -- to streamline operations and refrain from overly bloating the sector with additional, ongoing and sometimes copious oversight. 

Scott Rupp's picture

Scott Rupp


Scott E. Rupp is a writer and an award-winning journalist focused on healthcare technology. He has worked as a public relations executive for a major electronic health record/practice management vendor, and he currently manages his own agency, millerrupp. In addition to writing for a variety of publications, Scott also offers his insights on healthcare technology and its leaders on his site, Electronic Health Reporter.

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