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Could Meaningful Use Be Axed In Fiscal Cliff Battle?

Posted on November 20, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

In past items, my colleague John and I have weighed in on the issue of whether a change of administration could endanger the Meaningful Use program.  We concluded, in summary, that the program has too much momentum to fall to the budget axe that easily.

Now, in the light of an article by a colleague, I’m rethinking my view a bit. In an excellent column for Health Data Management, Joseph Goedert suggests that the so-called “fiscal cliff” has changed everything for the Meaningful Use program. Though the still-sitting president who backed HITECH’s $20 billion spend stayed in office, the House of Representatives remains controlled by the opposition party.

Goedert argues that during the debate over the fiscal cliff negotiations, someone’s going to look at the fat, juicy $20 billion allocated to health information technology — probably the Republicans who have already slammed the program publicly — and target it for budget cutting.  He argues that Democrats are unlikely to push back too hard, given that HITECH is hardly a “sacred cow” that legislators fear to touch.

And then, he says, comes a disaster for the health IT community:  “Whatever federal funds are left to support electronic health records, meaningful use, health I.T. workforce training, health information exchanges, best practices dissemination, regional extension centers and anything else in the HITECH Act will be gone.”

In Goedert’s view, the only way to save HITECH is for individual physicians hospitals to go on a lobbying tear, pounding their representatives and senators, if they don’t want to see Meaningful Use become a casualty of party politics.

I think Goedert has a point.  As he reminds us, eight Republican leaders in the House and Senate finance and health committees have already demanded proof that Meaningful Use is worth the money. And a recent House hearing held to investigate the subject suggests that some members still aren’t satisfied.  Things could get ugly.

Rep. Tom Marino Introduces Bill to Limit EHR Lawsuits

Posted on November 1, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Joseph Goedert from Health Data Management posted some really interesting news today about a new bill being introduced that would provide some legal protection to providers in case an EHR error occurs.

Here’s one excerpt from the article:

“The Safeguarding Access for Every Medicare Patient Act,” H.R. 3239, would limit electronic discovery in a legal action to information related to the EHR-related adverse event and information from the period in which the event occurred. This will limit attorneys from using EHRs to go on “fishing expeditions” and looking for other information, Marino says.

The legislation would set up a system for reporting potential errors when using EHRs without the threat of the information being used as an admission of guilt. It further would enable providers using EHRs to take remedial measures without that action being used to establish guilt, places time limits on the filing of lawsuits, and offers protection against libel and slander suits.

Of course, all sorts of legislation is proposed in Washington, but never actually passes. We’ll see how this one does. I have a feeling that most healthcare legislation is pretty toxic in Washington right now. I do love the idea of somehow preventing “fishing expeditions” as the article calls it or “ambulance chasers” if you will.

My biggest question with this bill is whether there has been similar regulations in other industries. If there hasn’t been similar legislation in other industries, then why should we have it in healthcare? Is there something unique in healthcare that we need to protect different than we do other industries? What are the safeguards that other industries use to avoid lots of lawsuits based on the use of software?

I can’t say I feel one way or another about this legislation right now. I’d just love to learn more about what the implications of the legislation would be. How could it be abused? What benefits could it provide? What issues could it shield that it shouldn’t? You know, all questions that should be asked of any legislation.

Any thoughts? I think one thing is certain, EHR lawsuits are just on the horizon. I bet we’ll have a whole industry of EHR expert witnesses created along the way.

Thanks to reader Jacki Channer for pointing out the news.