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Sen. Alexander, Sec. Burwell Talk Fixing EHRs in Congressional Hearing

April 23, 2015
by Gabriel Perna
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At a Senate hearing this week Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) , Chairman of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, talked about improving electronic health records (EHRs) with Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Sylvia Mathews Burwell.

The two talked about EHRs at the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the FY2016 budget request from HHS. Sen. Alexander said he wanted to push making EHRs more usable for doctors to the top of the HELP Committee and HHS’ priority list.

“Doctors don’t like their electronic medical record systems by large,” Sen. Alexander said. “They say they disrupt the workflow. They interrupt the doctor-patient relationship. They haven’t been worth the effort. An [American Medical Association]-commissioned RAND study found that electronic health records are the leading cause of physician dissatisfaction. A medical economics survey last year found nearly 70 percent of physicians say their electronic health records haven’t been worth it. So, what I’d like to ask you is will you commit to putting on your list of things that you’d like to get done in the year and nine months that you plan to be here working with us, identifying five or six things that would make this promise of electronic health records something that physicians and providers look forward to instead of something they endure?”

Sec. Burwell agreed to do that. “And after our meeting and our conversation, I think we’ve got a working group of staff ready to go, and we are committed to do that. I think that this is extremely important. In and of itself, but all of the things it touches. We’re going to talk about so many things it touches,” she responded. She talked about the various areas—precision medicine, delivery system reform—which EHRs affect and says it’s imperative to get them right.

Alexander and the HELP Committee held a hearing in March on the effectiveness of meaningful use, with many senators expressing concern over the lack of usable, interoperable EHR systems. They will a hold hearing on innovation in healthcare next week,



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