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October 27, 2015

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AAOS Sends Letters to Congress on HIT Issues

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AAOS Sends Letters to Congress on HIT Issues

imageOn October 13, AAOS sent letters of support to Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) for their legislation to address health information technology (HIT). The bill, S. 2141, establishes an electronic health record (EHR) rating system that focuses on security, usability, and interoperability while allowing providers to compare EHR systems. Further, this legislation would update the certification process by requiring health IT vendors to report on their products every two years, so providers can be assured that the product they purchased will continue to be interoperable. Finally, the legislation establishes a revolving user compensation fund to help offset costs associated with purchasing new certified health IT systems for users whose products were decertified.

“The AAOS believes that health information technology is a fundamental component to improving our nation’s healthcare system and has been working to increase adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) among its members,” wrote David D. Teuscher, MD, President of AAOS. “However, the current EHR marketplace is overwhelming and providers are offered no guarantee that the EHR product they purchase will be interoperable, efficient, effective, and secure. EHRs must be able to exchange patient information with other EHR systems without hidden fees and intentional blocks to data exchange. Additionally, many health IT systems are not user-friendly, which hinders, instead of aids, physicians’ abilities to provide quality care to their patients.”

Additionally, AAOS recently sent a letter to Senator Warren in response to questions during a Senate hearing on health information technology where bundled payment models were also discussed.

“The AAOS believes, and Dr. Conway attested to this at the hearing, that interoperability is critical to the success of bundled payment models like the Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement model,” wrote Dr. Teuscher. “However, the current HIT infrastructure does not provide for efficient electronic exchange of information, and the AAOS believes that no delivery model in which information exchange is critical should be mandatory until all providers can be assured that interoperability is achievable and the physician-patient relationship remains the priority.”

The letter continued by stating that the AAOS believes information sharing and interoperability are two different things; information sharing can occur through the transfer of paper records from one physician to another, but interoperability is only achieved when information sharing is automatic, efficient, and occurs through the EHR systems. Additionally, interoperability can only be achieved by EHR companies while alternative payment models – and any accompanying penalties – affect providers and not the EHR companies that provide these tools (as flawed as they currently are). The AAOS does not believe that a payment model designed to penalize physicians and hospitals for not participating will incentivize EHR vendors to achieve interoperability. Therefore, AAOS is asking Congress to support a delay of the Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement Model. A delay would allow physicians and hospitals adequate time to prepare to enter into a bundled payment structure while also allowing time to address other HIT issues such as EHR interoperability.

Rep. Tom Price, MD (R-GA) and more than 50 members of Congress recently sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) similarly urging for a delay of the program. Read more in Advocacy Now online here.