Earlier this week there was a curious little hearing at Pete Stark’s committee. Much of the Q & A—mind you post the announcement of the final meaningful use rules—was (apparently, as I can’t find the transcript) a beating up on the poor folks at ONC for reducing the barriers towards meaningful use. Here’s Jonathan Hare of upstart privacy/identity/network vendor Resilient explaining that things are not tough enough.
While Jonathan is having a bit of fun here (and, oh by the way, he does actually have a solution for the inadequacies of current HIEs which we’ll be showing you more about in the world of Health 2.0), some of this and the other stuff the ONC folks had to deal with was a little tough. They got a fair amount of abuse from the committee.
Some of which I agree with in spirit:
Rep. Wally Herger (R-Calif.) claimed that “by watering down the final regulations we have missed an opportunity” to improve patient care and reduce waste of taxpayer funds.
But if you listen to the testimony from the CIO of a University Hospital in Ohio, the man from NextGen (EMR vendor), and a family practice doc from New York—not to mention all the vendors interviewed by Inga at HISTalkPractice—you’ll realize that there were reasons for the slowdown. Not the least of which was that this relatively advanced bunch all were saying that even with the reduced demands of the new rules, it was going to be hard for them, let alone the majority of doctors and hospitals who haven’t started yet, to make it to meaningful use.
And remember that back in March 2010 249 members of Congress wrote to CMS urging a slowdown in the pace for HITECH meaningful use rule adoption. That group was led by a Conservative Republican called Tom Price. So we have Republicans saying speed up and slow down; and Democrats too no doubt mouthing the same thing.
In the end the folks at ONC & CMS have to thread the needle. First, they do need to get the money spent (This is a stimulus measure after all, and you may not have noticed but the economy could use it!). Second, they need to get most providers on board, and at the moment that’s not the case. Third, they need to get value for the taxpayer. I think that their approach is reasonable.
So lets stop arguing about the measure and lets get some technologies deployed that will be easy to adopt (SaaS) and crack the interoperability conundrum. And I think that Jonathan Hare and many others will be able to use the next two years to show how that can be done.