HHS Issues Draft Strategy to Reduce Burden of Health IT

“Usable, interoperable health IT was one of the first elements of the vision I laid out earlier this year for transforming our health system into one that pays for value,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said. “With the significant growth in EHRs comes frustration caused, in many cases, by regulatory and administrative requirements stacked on top of one another."

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a draft strategy Wednesday designed to help reduce the administrative and regulatory burden the use of health information technology such as electronic health records (EHRs) places on clinicians.

The HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) partnered on the draft Strategy on Reducing Burden Relating to the Use of Health IT and EHRs, which was required in the 21st Century Cures Act.

The draft strategy reflects the input and feedback the two organizations received from stakeholders expressing concerns that the burdens of EHR negatively affect the end user and the patient care experience. It includes recommendations that will allow clinicians to provide effective patient care with a renewed sense of satisfaction for themselves and those being treated.

“Usable, interoperable health IT was one of the first elements of the vision I laid out earlier this year for transforming our health system into one that pays for value,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said. “With the significant growth in EHRs comes frustration caused, in many cases, by regulatory and administrative requirements stacked on top of one another. Addressing the challenge of health IT burden and making EHRs useful for patients and providers, as the solutions in this draft report aim to do, will help pave the way for value-based transformation.”

Feedback to ONC and CMS indicated that when EHR is used, clinicians have to rely on checkboxes, templates, cut-and-paste functions, and other workarounds that impede the intended benefits of EHR use. Clinicians have said that spending more time on EHR data entry leads them less time to interact with patients and that required documentation guidelines have led to “note bloat” that makes it more difficult to find relevant patient information.

“Information technology has automated processes in every industry except health care, where the introduction of EHRs resulted in additional burden on clinicians,” said Don Rucker, national coordinator for health information technology. “Health IT tools need to be intuitive and functional so that clinicians can focus on their patients and not documentation. This draft strategy identifies ways the government and private sector can alleviate burden. I look forward to input from the public to improve this strategy.”

Based on the feedback received by ONC and CMS, the draft strategy outlines the three following goals designed to reduce the burden of EHR use on clinicians:

  1. Reduce the effort and time required to record health information in EHRs for clinicians;
  2. Reduce the effort and time required to meet regulatory reporting requirements for clinicians, hospitals, and health care organizations; and
  3. Improve the functionality and intuitiveness (ease of use) of EHRs.

The public comment period on the draft ends Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, at 11:59:59 p.m. ET.

“All of us share the responsibility to improve how we treat the nation’s patients, and we now have the opportunity to work together to find solutions to reduce burden associated with the use of EHRs so clinicians can spend more time with their patients,” Rucker said.

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