EHR Schedule Grumbling Continues

Technology does not “fix” anything by itself. That’s the lesson we’re learning as we await the final meaningful use rules from CMS, now likely in early summer. The New York Times reports this week that Kaiser Permanente, Partners, Intermountain Healthcare and others have stated concerns over the proposed level of technology capacity in order to qualify for meaningful use . Too much too fast seems to be the mantra. And if these providers will have trouble becoming meaningful users, the rest of the country’s hospitals and physicians must be in the fog without a compass.

There are two ways out of this dilemma: first, Congress could extend the deadline to qualify as a meaningful user, giving everyone additional time to come up with the capital, time, and technical help required to implement. The second way, and the more elegant of the solutions, is that HHS backs away from its insistence that every hospital and physician convert to a high level of EHR use over the next four years. Nothing in HITECH dictates that meaningful use must be at its highest level before 2015 penalties kick in. Meaningful use is not tied to the year 2015 in any way through the legislation; only the Policy Committee, he National Coordinator, and CMS seem to believe that it should.

Investing in technology is a long-term commitment. If over the next four years we can get every hospital and physician in the country using EHR systems at some basic level, we will have accomplished a lot. If they cannot get to some basic level of meaningful use by 2015, then the penalties can kick in. Then, over the next decade, meaningful use can continue to evolve. Don’t forget it is attached to Medicare and Medicaid, which is likely to continue using this requirement as another arrow in its quality management quiver.

This situation we find ourselves in occurs when leadership fails to recognize that this project is not about implementing technology. It is about fundamentally changing the way we collect, move and store information about healthcare. And that is, above all, a huge cultural shift that must be managed in a way that simply installing technology cannot do.

The New York Times article is here:

– Rod Piechowski

Copyright © 2010, Rod Piechowski, Inc., Consulting

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