AHA Says Meaningful Use Schedule Is Too Ambitious

Wow. The American Hospital Association is stepping into the picture this late in the game to complain that Meaningful Use rules are imposing massive pressure on its members?  The AHA isn’t known for its reticence, after all. But anyway, it appears that this week the trade group has jumped in and started swinging.

AHA’s executive vice president and complainer-in-chief Rick Pollack sent a 68-page letter to the Obama administration this week complaining about the burden of the Meaningful Use program.

Why can’t hospitals force their way through the process to get their bucks (which, after all, can be as much as $11.5m)? Pollack apparently cited  “the high bar set and market factors, such as accelerating costs and limited vendor capacity” in his list of concerns.

He could just have easily cited a bunch of other obstacles we’ve covered here, including a lack of staff available to implement EMR projects, demands placed by the ICD-9 to ICD-10 or maybe even the fact that $11.5 million doesn’t do nearly enough to defray the sticker price on, say, an Epic installation for a mid-sized hospital (Assuming the mid-sized hospital can convince Epic to let them use their EHR software).

Given these factors, I have to agree with the AHA: it doesn’t make a lot of sense to start penalizing hospitals with non-qualifying EMRs by 2015, an eye-blink in time when it comes to planning enterprise software installations and upgrades.

So, what should the administration do?  Certainly, moving deadlines up further would be a sweet gesture, but unless hospitals had five to seven years to carry this thing through, it will still feel like eating glass for many hospitals. And of course, if the Obama administration were to do such a thing, should it offer extra bonuses to the 20 percent of hospitals which have somehow managed to meet MU criteria?  There’s far, far more questions than answers to consider here.

Honestly, I would have expected to hear this schpiel, which I sympathize with greatly, a long time ago.  Maybe it just took this long for a major news organ like Bloomberg Businessweek to understand the issues and pipe up.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.


  • As I go through the Fed funded HealthIT Implementation Manager program I’m in on Long Island, I see a lot of obstacles to EHR adoption.

    Hospitals are extremely resistant to change.
    It is hard to pick out a system that meets all the needs of your hospital especially when no one will provide enough time to look at it.
    It is even harder when there are no viable resources for doing a decent comparison between systems.
    It’s harder yet when various systems are not compatible with each other or the various HIE’s in a given region, and when EHR systems have little if any ability to import and export their contents (to new, from old).
    It is hard to get enough good staff when your job requirements don’t make any sense and your recruiters are only trained to hire people like nurses and not IT people In terms of job requirements, every IT job I see at one major Long Island hospital system requires many years of HOSPITAL IT background and rules out IT pros from other industries. Mind you, given how bad hospitals are at IT improvements I’d try to avoid people with hospital IT background.

  • The AHA is dead wrong to oppose portals and “Blue Button Downloads” of health data.

    Patients have longstanding rights to obtain complete copies of their medical information (with some exceptions for mental health records), but it was time consuming and expensive in the paper age. There is no excuse now. Technology should be used to make downloads simple for patients.

    MD Anderson Cancer Treatment Center in Texas has been allowing patients and (with consent) referring physicians to download their records via a portal since 2009. The VHA’s Blue Button Initiative is wildly popular and over 1 million records have been downloaded. The ideas that it’s too hard, expensive, or unsafe are nonsense. The Automate Blue Button Initiative (ABBI) is critical to excellent care because patients can correct errors and seek second opinions.

    Obtaining our own records does not violate HIPAA. As far as the security risks, the hospital industry has been terrible at protecting data security and 80% still do not bother to encrypt data. How about the AHA fixing the terrible track record of hospital data breaches before worrying about whether patients may not secure their PHI?
    Patients also have longstanding, strong rights to control who can see and use PHI—–which the AHA and industry have also opposed.

    Today institutions control the use of sensitive patient information, which violates patients’ legal and ethical rights to privacy. This right should be exercised via informed electronic consent––today’s blanket advance paper consents are illegal: you can’t meaningfully consent to the use of health information that does not exist yet.

    It’s time to start building the patient-controlled health IT systems and data exchanges the public expects and has rights to. Corporations and institutions that ignore patients’ rights will fail; over 95% of the public wants to decide who can see and use their health information.

    Deborah C. Peel, MD
    Founder and Chair, Patient Privacy Rights

Click here to post a comment