According to the American Medical Association and other medical groups, one of members’ biggest headaches is the rise of electronic health record systems, which they say are drowning physicians in red tape.
Physicians say too much of their time is being taken up by clerical tasks. The medical industry is working to make the case that things need to change.
Last week, the American Medical Association highlighted the scope of the issue in a year-end wrap-up on its AMA Wire site, noting the sheer scope of the frustration that physicians are feeling from the electronic health record (EHR) meaningful use program. The goal of the program, which is administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), is to make electronic health data accessible throughout the medical system. The problem, physicians say, is that the reporting requirements and interfaces are often so onerous that the costs outweigh the benefits.
“Instead of spending my days listening to patients and solving their problems, I feel that I spend most of my time struggling to make unique stories and needs fit into an arcane system of clicks and drop-down menus,” Dr. Laura Knudson, an Indiana family physician, recently told the Chicago Tribune.
One thing driving AMA’s push against electronic data systems is the fact that AMA President Dr. Steven J. Stack, an emergency physician, is intimately familiar with the frustration with them. He notes that the association isn’t anti-technology; rather, the implementation of this technology is what’s causing frustration.
“As physicians, we had hoped that these tools would help facilitate patient engagement, reduce administrative burdens and promote the exchange of data,” Stack wrote in a July blog post. “Those three things have definitely not happened. Instead, we’re dealing with systems that won’t talk to one another, cost too much to maintain and require us to spend an inordinate amount of time entering data instead of helping patients.”
But despite the complaints surrounding the program, CMS has continued to move forward with new regulations, announcing finalized Stage 3 regulations in October. At a Bipartisan Policy Center forum this month, CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt argued that the issues with the program were related to business complications.
“It’s not technology that’s holding us back; it’s business practices,” Slavitt said, according to an American Academy of Family Physicians report. “Hospitals are not sharing data. The technology is not on an open platform, but we have solved more complex technology challenges than this.”
Nonetheless, the issue is leading the medical field to use its collective clout to encourage changes to the medical-reporting laws. Last month, AMA led 110 organizations in warning members of Congress that their collective members would likely abandon the EHR program if its implementation was not changed legislatively.
AMA’s efforts on this front are being emphasized through its Break the Red Tape advocacy campaign, which the association pledges will continue through the new year.