Roosevelt Institute | Cornell University

The Intersection of Business and Health: The Current State of the Meaningful Use Program

By Alexander GomezPublished March 11, 2015

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As revenue for installing new health record systems in accordance with the Meaningful Use program runs dry, electronic health record vendors are beginning to balance their loss by demanding new IT consulting contracts. Many of the contracts provide interoperability, a trait of health record systems necessary for the system to be successful. Physicians and medical practitioners are calling for sanctions on these companies, as they believe they are being caught between hefty consulting fees and strict government guidelines.
By Alexander Gomez, 3/11/2015

Six years ago, congress implemented an estimated 38 billion dollars in incentives for health information technology through The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Primarily, the bill aimed to introduce electronic health care records to the United States and to ensure that both IT providers and healthcare providers move together to creating a electronic solution to the difficulty of sharing and access of medical records. Incentive packages were given to healthcare provider in order to finance their purchasing of electronic health care record with hopes that by 2019, every hospital and doctor's office would have a record system, and every patient would have his or her own individual health care record.

In order to ensure that both users and providers move towards a solution in unison, the act proposed a set of core and menu requirements necessary for an electronic healthcare database to be eligible for the stipend. These measures effectively forced providers to create systems approved by the government and created a market of preapproved IT providers from which consumers could choose.

Years later, the acceleration of the adoption of electronic health records has been successful (stage one of the 10 year plan).  In 2013, it was estimated that eight of ten (78%) of private practices had adopted electronic health records while six in ten hospitals adopted and electronic health record system. However, this statistic only describes the adoption of systems. Whether or not they are being used to promote the government's ultimate goal of improving quality of care and reducing healthcare costs is another thing.

Physicians are reporting that as the stimulation packages begin to dry up, electronic health record providers are implementing new costs to maintain the revenue stream they became reliant on from installing the health record systems. Now, if physicians want to use data, certain companies are charging fees to provide access and interoperability (the ability for electronic health record systems provided by different vendors to work together). This behavior is preventing the intended functionality of these systems, and medical practitioners are calling for government intervention and open access.

This is just another example of the conflict that occurs due to the intersection of healthcare and private interests. Important medical records are being held hostage so that Health Information Technology Companies may make a profit. This parallels the current state of private insurance and makes one wonder, "should economic success be able to overshadow the welfare of the nation?" Although an unpopular opinion, I believe that the only solution to this issue is for the government to take charge of this service in order to protect the public's interest. With such sensitive and important data, private companies should not be able to hold physicians to exorbitant fees. Instead, the government should contract a single service provider and appropriate funding so that a single, fully functional electronic health record system can be put into place that best serves the American people.