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Government Walks Fine Line on HIT Regulation

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media, October 16, 2012

As the election nears, I'm not surprised to see the shortcomings of today's electronic medical records being used as yet another political football. But could it be true that the federal government isn't regulating EMRs enough?

According to an October 4 letter from four House Republicans to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the just-published Meaningful Use Stage 2 regulations are "in some respects, weaker" than Stage 1 regulations. They called for immediate suspension of distribution of EHR incentive payments.

(Note of clarification: The regulations just published include a set of updated Stage 1 regulations that will also take effect in 2014, as the Stage 2 regulations will.)

As an example, the letter says that e-prescribing and medication reconciliation compliance thresholds fell from 75% and 80%, respectively, in the proposed rule to 50% in the final rule.

But the main body of the letter then charges that the Stage 2 rules "fail to achieve comprehensive interoperability in a timely manner, leaving our healthcare system trapped in information silos, much like it was before the incentive payments."

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