There’s a fight going on about the adoption of health information technology in our country. This fight isn’t necessary and it shouldn’t be happening, but it is happening nonetheless – and patients have a lot at stake.
The deadline to file comments with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services about the Stage 2 Meaningful Use criteria will close in less than a week. With the deadline looming, one of the powerhouses in the health care provider community has made public its displeasure with a number of the most robust and important patient-engagement criteria. In fact, leaders of this organization made their views known with such vehemence that their views should be characterized as hostility.
The American Hospital Association (AHA) released its comment letter on its website. It shows that, when it comes to patients’ access to their own health information, the group has little interest in advancing Meaningful Use criteria that would result in tangible benefits for patients.
Objecting to the proposed 36-hour timeframe for patient access to information after discharge, the AHA instead advocates a 30-day timeframe for access to such basic, crucial and highly time-sensitive information as discharge instructions, medication lists, lab test results and care transition summaries. This is the very information that can help keep patients from being readmitted unnecessarily. No patient in this day and age should have to wait a full month for access to their own health information, which is vital to their ability to get and stay well. And no hospital should want to do this – especially with payment penalties for unnecessary readmissions about to be put in place.
In addition to objections to a reasonable timeframe for access, the AHA also throws in a veritable kitchen-sink of other arguments against the “view, download and transmit” criterion. They range from alleged HIPAA (privacy) conflicts to feasibility complaints. The alleged HIPAA conflicts are wholly without legal merit and it is absurd to use HIPPA, a law designed to protect patients, in a way that would undermine patient interests. The feasibility complaints are tired and have been rendered near-ridiculous by the deliberately-low 10-percent threshold for achievement.
In filing this comment letter, the American Hospital Association made clear that it doesn’t have patients’ best interests in mind on this front. Consumers need to be aware of its opposition to requirements that providers meet patients’ basic information needs in exchange for incentive money paid for by taxpayers like you and me.
A new day has dawned for our health care system, and any providers sharing these views clearly need to wake up and remember whose needs should come first – patients and families.
I hope you’ll join me in taking action to protect health IT!
Christine Bechtel is the vice president of the National Partnership for Women & Families.