Ahead of today’s Congressional hearing on Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed 2014 budget, yesterday a group of six Republican Senators released a public letter questioning just how and where the HITECH Act funds are being spent. Along with this letter, the Senators released a white paper, Reboot: Re-examining the Strategies Needed to Successfully Adopt Health IT. In this white paper, the Senators outline their concerns over the decisions CMS and ONC have made towards achieving meaningful use, interoperability and health IT adoption.
In the letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Senators Lamar Alexander (TN), Richard Burr (NC), Tom Coburn (OK), Mike Enzi (WY), Pat Roberts (KS) and John Thune (SD) write:
Since the passage of the HlTECH Act in 2009,the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released hundreds of pages of regulations to implement the program. In addition, $35 billion over ten years will be spent to implement this program. The HITECH Act was enacted to promote the adoption and meaningful use of health IT. The goal of the program is to create a secure network in which hospitals and providers can share patient data nationwide. Unfortunately, we have significant concerns with the implementation of the HITECH Act to date, including the lack of data to support the Administration’s assertions that this taxpayer investment is being appropriately spent and actually achieving the goal of interoperable health IT.
The letter asks a number of questions with requests back for information provided by June 16, 2013, including:
- A list of every contract or task order awarded to perform work related to the HITECH Act
- What additional work been done to ensure the sustainability of the Regional Extension Centers (RECs)
- How the Beacon Community awardees will be impacted by Stage 2 and 3 milestones
In the accompanying report, the Senators sum up what they perceive as implementation deficiencies by CMS and ONC to advance health IT adoption in five key points:
- Lack of a clear path to interoperability
- Health IT adoption has increased costs, not reduced them
- Lack of oversight to prevent fraud and waste associated
- Patient privacy at risk in the current EHR environment
- Program Sustainability for providers post incentive and grant payments
It is expected that many of the issues and concerns raised by the Senators letter and report will be addressed starting today with scheduled testimony from Secretary Sebelius.