Commentary: 5 points congressmen missed in call to end MU

Timing being everything and all, the four Republican congressmen who on Oct. 4 sent a letter asking HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to stop distributing meaningful use incentives probably should have attended the Oct. 3 Bipartisan Policy Center event instead. 

The day was packed with doctors, politicians, healthcare industry heavyweights, state and local health officials, who were all essentially agreeing that health information exchange and interoperability are gaining purchase in the industry. 

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Farzad Mostashari, MD, the national coordinator for health IT, was at the BPC event, where the group unveiled two reports on electronic data sharing and ever-enthusiastic as he is, said of the results BPC presented, “the report, the way it starts off, the first finding is dead-on, in terms of the centrality of every conversation we’re having, that a business case is emerging,” for exchanging health information, Mostashari added. And he’s not the only one.

Shortly afterward Mostashari, who along with acting CMS director Marilyn Tavenner is cc’d on the letter, said that during Stage 2 of meaningful use, “you’re going to see a major difference in your vendors not having to negotiate with each other,” over things like what coding system to use, how to package patient information, what secure protocols to use for exchanging data over the Internet.

At issue for the congressmen who sent the letter are what they identify as $35 billion in Medicare and taxpayer funds potentially distributed to providers for purchasing EHRs that are not interoperable with other vendors EHRs.

[See also: Physicians point to business case for HIE]

“The Stage 2 rules fail to achieve comprehensive interoperability in a timely manner, leaving our health system trapped in information silos, much like it was before the incentive payments,” the authors wrote.

The letter is signed by Dave Camp, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Wally Herger, chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, Fred Upton, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Joe Pitts, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health; Republicans, all.

“More than four and a half years and two final Meaningful Use rules later, it is safe to say that we are no closer to interoperability in spite of the nearly $10 billion spent,” the authors continued.

Now, in all due respect, they are missing a number of points, not least of which:

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