Medicare & Medicaid

EHR meaningful use doomed unless Congress steps in


Congress just received an urgent call to action from physicians: Unless lawmakers intervene in the federal electronic health record (EHR) meaningful use program, physicians—who are frustrated by the “near impossibility of compliance with meaningless and ill-informed bureaucratic requirements”—likely will abandon the program completely. Physicians laid out the bleak situation in letters delivered to Congress Monday night. 


In the face of new regulations that will make program requirements under Stage 3 even less achievable and more disruptive, the AMA and 110 other medical associations sent letters to members of the Senate (log in) and the House (log in), urging them to intervene.

The letters point out that “the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has continued to layer requirement on top of requirement, usually without any real understanding of the way health care is delivered at the exam room level.”

Negative consequences of the program have been significant. The letters underscore some of the most serious ones lawmakers need to understand:

  • Physician time is being diverted from patient care to data entry.
  • Patient records are being filled with unnecessary documentation that is unrelated to providing high-quality care.
  • The program has created new barriers to exchanging data and other information across care settings.

Although more than 80 percent of physicians have EHRs in their practices, only 12 percent of physicians have been able to successfully participate in Stage 2 of meaningful use. The statistic speaks volumes about how physicians embrace new technology while ill-conceived regulations hold back progress.

Physicians have been pointing to the problems with the program for years, asking for remedies that would support physicians in providing the best care possible for patients. Not the least among these concerns is that innovative EHR technologies need to be developed to meet the needs of physicians’ practices and advance the sharing of patient data among the professionals who are providing their care.

“It is unrealistic to expect that doing the same thing over and over again will result in a different outcome,” the letters state of how CMS has handled meaningful use regulations over the years.

“It is time for Congress to act to refocus the meaningful use program on the goal of achieving a truly interoperable system of EHRs that will support, rather than hinder, the delivery of high-quality care,” physicians said in the letters.

Decision-makers in the nation’s capital need to hear from you. If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to speak out about meaningful use. Here are three important ways you can make your voice heard:

  • Email your members of Congress. Tell them that the nation’s patients and physicians need significant changes to Stage 3 of meaningful use. 
  • Submit comments on the Stage 3 regulations. CMS is allowing a 60-day comment period for feedback on the final rule. You have until Dec. 15 to help create a groundswell of physician responses that call for changes to the proposal.
  • Share your story. Join your peers in telling your story about how meaningful use regulations are affecting your patient-physician relationships.