CHICAGO — The American Medical Association and 36 specialty medical associations urged the Administration today to rethink the way it measures the interoperability of electronic health records. The coalition of physician and medical organizations believes the current direction will require physicians to spend too much time meeting measures that will do little to make electronic health records valuable to patients and medical practices.

In letters delivered today to Andrew Slavitt, the acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and Karen DeSalvo, the national coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), the physician organizations said regulators should toss out measures that focus on quantity of records and instead focus on achieving interoperability and care coordination goals. The comment letter is in response to a request for information on assessing interoperability under the Medicare Access and Chip Reauthorization Act (MACRA), the bipartisan payment reform bill that became law last year.

"The lack of interoperability is one of the major reasons why the promise of electronic health records has not been fulfilled," said AMA President Steven J. Stack, M.D. "Vendors have been incentivized to meet the flawed benchmarks under the Meaningful Use program. We need to replace those benchmarks with ones that focus on better coordinated care. MACRA offers that opportunity, and we need to take advantage of it."

According to the letter, the vast majority of vendors offer products that simply exchange static documents, thus satisfying the minimum Meaningful Use requirements. "Many in health care view this level of exchange as little more than digital faxing," the letter said.

Rather than using data exchange as the metric for measuring interoperability, the letter urges CMS to focus on usefulness, timeliness, correctness and completeness of data, as well as the ease and cost of information access. That would benefit patients more than counting how many times voluminous documents are sent back and forth.

"There is no reason to carry over the flawed measures from Meaningful Use," Stack said. "MACRA gives us a chance to start fresh and produce metrics that enhance the wellness of patients. We are willing to work with CMS and ONC to get there."

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About the American Medical Association

The American Medical Association is the physicians’ powerful ally in patient care. As the only medical association that convenes 190+ state and specialty medical societies and other critical stakeholders, the AMA represents physicians with a unified voice to all key players in health care.  The AMA leverages its strength by removing the obstacles that interfere with patient care, leading the charge to prevent chronic disease and confront public health crises and, driving the future of medicine to tackle the biggest challenges in health care.

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