Docs urge big changes to health records program

A coalition of 35 medical societies is urging federal regulators to make major changes to the Meaningful Use electronic health records (EHR) program.

Led by the American Medical Association, the coalition wrote Wednesday to the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology arguing that Meaningful Use could harm patients if allowed to continue in its current state.

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"We believe the Meaningful Use certification requirements are contributing to EHR system problems, and we are worried about the downstream effects on patient safety," the groups wrote.

"Physician informaticists and vendors have reported to us that MU certification has become the priority in health information technology design at the expense of meeting physician customers’ needs, patient safety, and product innovation," the letter stated.

The coalition called on regulators to decouple the certification of electronic health records from Meaningful Use, which imposes a timetable for EHR adoption and a series of penalties and incentives based on doctors' compliance.

The groups also asked the Office of the National Coordinator to reconsider alternative software testing methods and to incorporate stakeholder feedback on a variety of technical matters related to Meaningful Use.

The healthcare world has been struggling with the migration to digital records, arguing that the Meaningful Use standards are hampering their ability to deliver good care.

Advocates for Meaningful Use argue it is helping speed the transition to EHRs, which will ultimately boost care and prevent deadly medical errors.

The program has undergone several delays as doctors and hospitals fail to attest to its various stages.