A diverse group of 56 labor, employer and consumer organizations that collectively represent millions of Americans wrote to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius this week to thank the Administration for drafting a final "meaningful use" definition that provides a strong foundation for achieving better outcomes, improved patient experience and reduced costs.
The letter was organized by the National Partnership for Women & Families, and signed by the Alzheimer’s Association, American Benefits Council, Community Catalyst, Consumers Union, Employers’ Health Coalition, Microsoft, Pacific Business Group on Health, SEIU, Children’s Partnership and Xerox, among others. It praises the final rule for striking "the appropriate balance between requiring providers to make key changes in care delivery and offering them flexibility to maximize participation in the program." This will translate "into more consumers and purchasers reaping the benefits of providers effectively using electronic health records," it says.
The letter continues: "The definition’s requirements will create a noticeable difference in how patients and their caregivers experience the health care system. Rather than being solely responsible for keeping track of multiple providers, specialists, lab results and medications, and going without the information they need to be effectively engaged in their care, patients will be better able to partner with their providers in their care management and coordination. And providers who participate in the program will be better equipped to provide the best quality care to their patients by using health IT to ensure that the information they need is available at the point of care. We see these requirements as crucial stepping stones toward addressing the incredibly fragmented system that consumers and purchasers face today, and improving not only care coordination and outcomes, but also patient safety. The reductions in poor outcomes and admissions/readmissions to the hospital and emergency department resulting from these infrastructure changes will translate into significant savings for the health care system."
In the next phase of rule-making, the groups urge the Administration to transition the 2011 elements that are now optional into required elements for receiving incentive payments, incorporating measures for meaningful use that matter most to consumers and purchasers and implementing a rigorous program for monitoring and auditing information technologies supported by HITECH, such as clinical decision support and computerized physician order entry, to minimize patient safety risks.
The full letter is posted at www.nationalpartnership.org/sebelius
The National Partnership for Women & Families is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, access to quality health care and policies that help women and men meet the dual demands of work and family. More information is available at www.NationalPartnership.org.