The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) upped the ante on the level of engagement between federal healthcare agencies and the healthcare provider community on Feb. 24, when CHIME leaders announced that they and 47 other healthcare associations and organizations had co-signed a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, calling for “additional time and flexibility in the meaningful use program to ensure its continued success,” according to the Feb. 24 announcement, which was released as HIMSS14, the annual conference of the Chicago-based Healthcare Information & Management Systems Society (HIMSS) was opening at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, and the day after the CHIME-HIMSS Forum at the Hyatt Regency Orlando.
The press release announcing the demand for timeframe flexibility on the timeframes in the meaningful use program, under the HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) Act, stated that, “While underscoring the Meaningful Use program’s invaluable role in advancing technology adoption among hospitals and physicians, the letter states that strict adherence to current program requirements endangers overall success of the EHR program, disrupts providers’ healthcare operations and potentially jeopardizes patient safety.”
Among the 47 other healthcare associations and groups co-signing the letter were the American Medical Association, American Hospital Association, Catholic Health Association of the United States, Federation of American Hospitals, Association of American medical Colleges, Children’s Hospital Association, National Rural Health Association, American Health Information Management Association, Medical Group Management Association, Premier healthcare alliance, VHA Inc., and a broad range of specialty medical societies.
The statement quoted Russell P. Branzell, president and CEO of CHIME, as saying, “Given that we have just celebrated the anniversary of HITECH, we can look back at the last five years with great pride and take stock of how far we’ve come – as an industry and as a nation. But we must look ahead and recognize the immense work in front of us. Now is the time to make much-needed course corrections to ensure that we continue this success well past HITECH’s tenth anniversary.”
In addition, Branzell exclusively told Healthcare Informatics, “This is the greatest collaboration and consistent message in public policy the HIT industry has ever seen. The press release is an indication of something else that has been signed on by almost every organization in the country.”
Asked what the outcome of this effort might be, Jeff Smith, senior director of federal affairs at CHIME, told HCI exclusively, “ I think the possibility of action is definitely there. To be honest, if the press asks questions of the government, it might change things.” He noted that such a broad signatory for an effort like this was exceptional in healthcare.
Smith continued, “The government has not been asked for this flexibility. And one of the things that we’re trying to do with this letter is, we’ve got 48 organizations signed onto this effort, and it represents every aspect of the healthcare industry. And this has never been done before in the healthcare IT industry, communicating with such a unified voice. Everyone here is a fierce advocate for automation and for the value of the program, and we’re trying to save the program,” he added. “I think time will tell in terms of what they do and how they receive this. But I would think that if enough headlines come out and say, hey, the nation’s providers need help accomplishing this, that they might seriously consider this.”