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Senate health committee leaders form bipartisan EHR improvement group

A member of a Republican group that previously targeted the meaningful use program has crossed party lines to work with Democrats on a mission to improve the use of EHRs. Lamar Alexander (R- Tenn.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) announced the formation of a group that aims to improve EHRs so that they simplify and enhance healthcare.

The Senate health committee working group’s mission is to identify a handful of ways the use of EHRs can be optimized, something that can’t necessarily be accomplished by throwing money at the issue. “After $28 billion in taxpayer dollars spent subsidizing electronic health records, ‎doctors don’t like these electronic medical record systems and say they disrupt workflow, interrupt the doctor-patient relationship and haven’t been worth the effort,” Alexander said in a release.

The working group is also focused on other healthcare areas beyond EHRs including interoperability, patient data security and supplying patients with access to their personal health information. The group also has an overarching objective of bettering the delivery and safety of patient care.

Starting this year Medicare eligible professionals are subject to payment adjustments or a reduction in financial reimbursements for not qualifying as meaningful users of EHRs. Alexander spoke out against that measure earlier in 2015, “The administration seems to have complicated the process [of transitioning to EHRs] by rushing ahead with penalties for those who don’t adopt EHR systems.”

Senator Alexander was one of six U.S. Senators responsible for a document titled REBOOT: Re-Examining the Strategies Needed to Successfully Adopt Health IT. The Reboot group published its initial plea — which begged a thorough re-evaluation of the national EHR deployment strategy — more than two years ago and followed it up in a blog post published in March. The group was unable to find solid evidence that the HITECH Act’s $35 billion price tag has paid dividends for patients. The lack of progress toward interoperability was noted as a foremost concern of the group.