Technology is supposed to make the health care process easier and more efficient, but regulatory and administrative requirements mean that health care professionals are spending too much time and effort entering data into electronic health records systems, according to a draft Department of Health and Human Services strategy.

The new EHR strategy, released for public comment Nov. 28, proposes to reduce health care provider burden with EHRs by fixing regulatory requirements.

“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,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar.

“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.”

The strategy proposes three goals for improving EHR usage:

  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.

“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.”

The strategy proposes a number of actions, including reducing the regulatory burden around patient visits, standardizing data and processes for EHRs, simplifying EHR reporting program requirements and doing an inventory of reporting requirements across federal programs to help reduce the reporting burden on clinicians and providers.

The strategy was led by the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, in partnership with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and developed through consultation with clinicians themselves.

“Over the past year, we hosted listening sessions, received written feedback, and heard from a wide range of clinical stakeholders about the current health IT systems and the requirements specifying documentation, reimbursement and quality reporting that are burdensome and should be re-examined,” said Seema Verma, CMS administrator.

“CMS has demonstrated through bold regulatory action the importance of reducing clinician burden.”

Those interested in commenting on the strategy have until Jan. 28, 2019.

Jessie Bur covered the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees for Federal Times.

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