At a town hall meeting last night in Atlanta hosted by the American Medical Association, physicians expressed widespread discontent with electronic health records and the federal government’s Meaningful Use program.

As the nation’s largest physician organization, AMA held the meeting to give voice to provider dissatisfaction with EHRs and to encourage doctors to share their experiences with EHR technology. A parade of physicians told the group their horror stories with EHR implementation.

“We have a technology that brings graduate degree-educated people to their knees. There’s something not right here,” said AMA’s President Steven J. Stack, M.D. Despite the fact that more than 80 percent of U.S. physicians use EHRs, Stack commented that too often these tools “blunt their efficiency, diminish their effectiveness, and get between them and their patients.”

Also See: AMA Wants EHR Designs Overhauled

According to Stack’s own experience as an emergency physician, EHRs have negatively impacted clinical workflow—a contention supported by a show of hands at the town hall meeting. In addition, Stack made the case that EHRs today are not interoperable and “don’t talk to each other,” creating digital silos.

He asserted that AMA is committed to “ensure that our patients’ needs and the physicians’ needs who serve them are a higher priority than meeting bloated federal regulations.” The group’s goal is to promote EHR interoperability, improve usability, and increase patient engagement.

Stack criticized the Meaningful Use program for proposing new requirements and new stages “without making good use of our current knowledge about what is working and what is not.” As part of its Break the Red Tape campaign, AMA is calling on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to “postpone” finalizing Stage 3 Meaningful Use rules so that it can align with new payment/delivery models.  

“Meaningful use—it sounds wonderful. The problem is that it oftentimes is inconsistent with the product and the work that’s required. And, in this instance, I believe we’re on the path to an un-meaningful and oftentimes useless product,” Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), M.D., told the physician meeting.

Price argued that one of the major problems with EHRs is that they are “removing the science from medicine” by asking doctors to “check certain boxes” and to perform tasks designed by those without the medical experience or firsthand knowledge of the physician-patient relationship “that is the key to quality healthcare in our country.”

The congressman concluded his remarks telling physicians in attendance that their talents are in taking care of patients—not in collecting data—and that is where their focus should be. 

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