Q&A with Mark Savage: Why consumers say MU should not be delayed

Savage takes the consumer's point of view; MU should be strengthened, not delayed

Mark Savage, director of health information technology policy and programs with the National Partnership, takes the consumer's standpoint in EHR adoption and use — meaning he is a supporter of strengthening, rather than delaying, the meaningful use program.

The National Partnership for Women and Families was among the signatories on an open letter responding to the U.S. Senators who called for a “reboot” of the meaningful use program.

Government Health IT Editor Tom Sullivan spoke with Savage about addressing the Senators’ concerns, the remarkable progress achieved since passage of the HITECH Act, and the untold population health management upsides of digitizing the American healthcare system.

Q: The letter to the Senators argues that postponing or delaying the meaningful use program is not the answer. What is the answer?

A: The answer is to continue to try and advance the needs of patients, and providers for that matter, with the meaningful use program. The whole nation is moving pretty quickly, things are arising. The meaningful use program itself has mechanisms for improving efforts when issues do arise so we suggested moving forward, that the program be used to make the improvements that are necessary.

Q: You also call for strengthening the meaningful use program — how would you accomplish that?

A: We are working through the HIT Policy Committee, the workgroups that report to that, the subgroups that report to the workgroups, for example the meaningful use workgroup, to try and improve some of the policy and criteria that are coming up. Since Stage 1 and Stage 2 are already in so at this point, it’s working to try and improve stage 3 to better meet the needs of patients and caregivers.

[See also: Beware: the top 4 hurdles to successful EHR implementation.]

Q: So it’s more tailoring the stages than trying to change the meaningful use program…?

A: Not changing it. If we step back, under the HITECH Act, we’ve got a six-year transformation of health information exchange in the nation. In 2009, when that bill was passed, there were some health organizations that had EHR systems, but not a whole lot and we’ve seen the adoption and use rates ramping up considerably. It’s a pretty ambitious program to try and meet all of this in six years and meet the congressionally stated strategic goal of every American having an electronic health record by the year 2014 when the healthcare reform provisions go into effect.

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