The American Hospital Association concurs with many concerns from six Republican members of the U.S. Senate who recently called for a pause to the EHR meaningful use program and re-examination of its strategies.

The program certainly compels a more critical look at it enters further stages, AHA said in a comment letter to Sens. Lamar Alexander, Richard Burr, Tom Coburn, Michael Enzi, Pat Roberts and John Thune. There is uneven progress in meaningful use as a digital divide remains between urban providers and rural providers, barriers to interoperability remain, concerns remain on whether Stage 2 criteria are doable, and meaningful use audits are too burdensome with auditors often not well-informed about meaningful use, AHA contends.

But pausing meaningful use to conduct what the senators call a “Re-Boot” of the program brings additional concerns, according to AHA. Any interruption in incentive payments “would be unfair to those who have made strategic plans and large investments based on the policies in place today,” the association asserts.

In its letter to the senators, AHA includes comments recently sent to federal officials on ways to remove barriers to data exchange. These included strengthening certification requirements for exchange, foster affordable exchange networks, establish provider directories to ease sending and retrieving of information, adopt new health information exchange standards, provide a single national approach to matching patients to records, and reduce varying consent and privacy rules across states. “We believe these federal actions will be essential to moving forward with interoperability,” the AHA says in the letter to senators. “Many of the barriers to information exchange need to be addressed at a policy level and will require federal action.”

The letter is available here.

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