“It is unfortunate that consumers may have to wait longer to realize the full benefits of health information technology (HIT) to improve their care and health. While we are disappointed with the one-year delay in the Meaningful Use Program announced late Friday afternoon, we trust and expect that the Administration will use this extra time to take all necessary steps to ensure that this next phase of HIT is implemented in ways that will give all consumers the efficient, well-coordinated, patient- and family-centered health care system they need and deserve.
On Friday, officials at the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) announced their intention to delay the next phase of the Electronic Health Record or ‘Meaningful Use’ Incentive Program one year, to 2017. This next stage — Stage 3 — is intended to shift the focus to better health outcomes for patients and families — better quality and care and better health. Stage 2, which would be extended one year, focuses more on the process of electronic health information exchange and coordination, including the right of patients to view, download and transmit their health information. The HITECH Act of 2009 established a national goal that an electronic health record is in use for every person in the United States by 2014.
We remain grateful for the resources lawmakers have invested in implementing HIT, and determined to see that taxpayers and families realize the full benefits from that investment. HIT is an essential building block for a reformed health care system that improves quality, lowers costs, strengthens care coordination, reduces disparities, improves patient outcomes, and makes patients full partners in decisions about their care.
Patients and families deserve and will expect to see real results and accountability for this year of delay. It gives all parties a generous amount of time to implement Stage 2 well and to develop all the critical criteria and standards pending in Stage 3. Patients and families expect Stage 3 criteria and electronic tools that ensure their access and participation in care planning and coordination. They expect full access to health information in languages other than English for the one-fifth of the nation (58 million people) that speaks a language other than English at home. They expect substantial improvement in Stage 3 criteria to reduce health disparities across America, in line with the Disparities Action Plan submitted by the Consumer Partnership for eHealth last August.
On behalf of patients and families, we expect CMS and ONC to ensure that implementation moves efficiently and effectively if this new timeline is adopted. Updating EHR certification criteria more frequently will help, while giving providers ample time to successfully achieve meaningful use.”
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.