The federal government should conduct a small pilot project with a number of vendors and a variety of physician practices before incentive programs for meaningful use of electronic health records start, the Medical Group Management Association recommends.

The pilot would ensure that the process of demonstrating meaningful use is achievable and practical, the Englewood, Colo.-based association said in a recent letter to David Blumenthal, M.D., national coordinator for health information technology. "This pilot could assist in determining potential roadblocks to program success and identify solutions to those roadblocks."

MGMA offered a series of recommendations in its letter. Among them:
* Avoid reliance on third-party compliance. "Several of the draft meaningful use criteria require, for example, the reporting of percentages of patients undergoing specific tests. We strongly encourage you not to impose arbitrary 'thresholds' that physicians would have to meet for the reporting of these types of measures." Physicians, MGMA notes, can't force patients to take tests.
* Create a simple process for physicians to demonstrate meaningful use. "We recommend that attestation and/or survey instruments serve as the primary methods of demonstration. This would be especially important for the initial phases of the program and could be verified through an audit process. The development of a complicated and time-consuming process for practices to prove that they meet the incentive qualifications will result in fewer organizations transitioning to EHRs."

Text of MGMA's letter to Blumenthal is available at mgma.com/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=31758.

--Joseph Goedert

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