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Sen. Hatch: Let's Push the Pause Button on Meaningful Use

July 18, 2013
by Gabriel Perna
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Senator Orrin Hatch Credit: Wikipedia

During a hearing on how health IT can improve the quality of healthcare in America, U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) requested a temporary suspension of the meaningful use program, under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act.

 “The federal government cannot afford to spend money on programs that don’t yield results. At the same time, providers can’t afford to invest in systems that don’t work or have to be overhauled a year later as requirements change,” Hatch said in his opening statement at the hearing, which included testimony from Farzad Mostashari, M.D., the National Coordinator for Health IT.

“It would seem to me that we have an opportunity to push the pause button and make sure that the program is working before we continue down a potentially unsustainable path.”

Hatch expressed concern that the success of meaningful use was being judged primarily on the number of dollars going out the door, rather than the “the positive impact on patient care and decreases in healthcare costs.” He said that most providers were not like the Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare System, which has made a number of achievements in the field of informatics over the years.’

The Senator said Intermountain was the exception, not the rule and that “size, sophistication, and availability of resources vary greatly” per provider.  “Let me be clear, I do not want to see progress stalled on implementing the use of technologies.  But, if we ignore problems along the way and simply expect everyone to catch up, we will end up in worse shape,” Hatch says.

Hatch said this would be a chance to take the “mid-course pulse” of meaningful use incentive payments to providers, and” to assess the kinds of improvements in healthcare that these funds intended”

His sentiment is not unlike what was proposed by six Republican Senators back in April. Those Senators released a whitepaper that argues Congress and the Obama administration need to reboot the Health Information Technology and Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act and the efforts to deploy health IT, because the current program is deficient.

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