More voices raised against EHR incentives

By Diana Manos
11:15 AM

ST. PAUL, MN  -  The Citizens' Council for Health Freedom (CCHF) added its voice in October to a chorus of four Republican lawmakers who called for a temporary halt to meaningful use incentives until the program is revamped.

But, unlike those lawmakers, CCHF wants federal involvement in EHRs eliminated altogether, according to Twila Brase, the group's president.

CCHF, a non-profit organization based in St. Paul, Minn., does not want electronic health records pushed forward by a federal program at all. Rather, it supports the market leading the way. "HITECH could go away, as far as we're concerned," Brase told Healthcare IT News.

CCHF's comments followed the Oct. 4 letter from four Republican congressional committee chairs to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, calling for suspension of EHR incentive payments until universal interoperability standards are federally established. The Congressmen also called for stricter standards for achieving meaningful use and the elimination of  "subsidies to business practices that block the exchange of information between providers."

Brase said CCHF applauds the lawmakers' position, but urges them to reconsider their support for EHRs, enhanced interoperability and online access. She said private-market solutions, coupled with consent requirements and individual responsibility for private health records, would be the best approach. In addition, CCHF calls for states to implement "true patient privacy laws," as allowed under the HIPAA privacy rule.

"Left to its own devices, the market would fix interoperability issues on its own, while creating better protections for sensitive health data, or else patients would solve the problem themselves by carrying their private data on portable media such as DVDs or thumb drives," said Brase. "The problems that the government continues to ignore are privacy and patient consent; no EHR program should move forward until every American has a guaranteed right of consent over the use and sharing of their private medical records."

Brase said the CCHF has been concerned for a long time with where the government is going with EHRs, at both the state and national level.

According to Brase, between HITECH and the HIPAA law, some 2.2 million entities currently have access to a patient's health data, without the patient's consent. "When the public finally understands this, it will change the whole doctor-patient relationship," she said. "Patients will try and protect themselves."

"Our health data is being used for massive research for things we might find very objectionable," Brase said. Further, evidence-base medicine, supported by EHRs, does not always support the best outcome for all patients, and is leading the way to healthcare rationing, Brase contends.

Brase, who is trained as an emergency room nurse, retired from practicing to head CCHF. She said many of her views are based on her experiences in the ER.

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) issued a statement opposing GOP representatives' letter.

"HIMSS emphasizes the significant progress that has been made towards the adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) and exchange of health information since the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive program began in 2011," the statement read.