AMA presses for changes to electronic health record regulations

The American Medical Association on Wednesday said federal regulations governing the adoption of electronic health records (EHR) create barriers for some physicians to shift to paperless records.

The regulations were released last week. They determine how hospitals and physicians’ offices can become eligible for federal incentive payments for early adoption of electronic records and avoid penalties for failing to make the shift by 2015. 

“The final requirements for the meaningful use of EHRs are an improvement over previous drafts, but challenges still remain that will make it difficult for physicians to meet the requirements — especially physicians in solo and small practices,” AMA board member Steven Stack said in a statement.

The AMA in its statement raises concerns with product availability, the timeline for adoption and the high overall number of measures physicians are required to meet. The regulations require physicians to meet 20 measures in the first year, the AMA says, which is too much for smaller practices that are new to the technology.

In its statement, the AMA says its advocacy efforts have resulted in changes to the regulations including:

• More flexibility for physicians to pick and choose the meaningful use criteria that best fits their practice;

• Removal of measures that are not directly related to an EHR, such as checking patient eligibility for care and submitting insurance claims electronically;

• Reduction of the number of clinical quality measures physicians need to report.

“The AMA is committed to EHR adoption that streamlines the clinical and business functions of a physician office and helps physicians provide the highest quality care to patients,” Stack said. “We will continue working to address barriers to implementation so physicians can smoothly and successfully adopt new technology.”