No Interoperable EHR Systems? Meaningful Use Requirements Are Meaningless

At its interim meeting in Dallas, Texas, on November 10, 2014, the American Medical Association (AMA) announced the adoption of a policy calling for an end to penalties for failure to meet the meaningful use (MU) requirements of the electronic health records (EHR) incentive program. Noting that only 2 percent of physicians have attested to compliance with Stage 2, the AMA urged policymakers to add more flexibility to the program and focus on assuring the interoperability of EHR systems.

The announcement is the latest in a series of AMA statements opposing the penalties, seeking a shorter reporting period in 2015, and calling for changes to the measures to be collected and reported. President-elect Steven Stack, M.D., emphasized that interoperability is essential to the basic purpose of EHR, specifically, allowing the secure exchange of information across care settings and providers. “[R]ight now that sort of sharing is not happening on a wide scale for reasons that are outside physicians’ control,” Stack said. Some systems are capable of interoperability, but when the data is transferred “it is not incorporated into the receiver’s EHR system in a digestible way.” Unless the recipient can receive and act on the data, the purpose of sharing it is not achieved, he added.

The AMA contends that requiring doctors to enter data in fields takes time from patient care and imposes burdens on them without adding value unless the data can be used after the record is transmitted and received. In September 2014, the AMA submitted a blueprint for improvement of the MU program and a framework detailing eight priorities for making EHR systems more usable.