Press Release
Consumer and Employer Groups Tell Officials to Stand Strong Against Industry Attempts to Weaken Meaningful Use Definition

Today more than 50 of the nation’s leading consumer and employer groups issued a strongly worded letter to the top officials at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) responsible for setting the criteria for “meaningful use” of HIT to convey clearly that the public funding used to incentivize provider adoption of HIT must result in improvements in the quality and affordability of health care, not just the presence of technology in provider settings. The groups, including AARP, Consumer’s Union, the National Partnership for Women & Families, the Pacific Business Group on Health, SEIU, and Wal-Mart have been supportive of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS’) robust proposed definition of “meaningful use” and see the meaningful use incentive program as a major investment that puts the necessary infrastructure in place for better individual health care and system-wide reform.

“A final rule that does not lay a clear path in the first year toward tangible improvements in quality and lay the foundation for the systemic changes necessary for reform would represent a waste of taxpayer dollars,” the letter states. “Other industries have long viewed IT investments simply as a cost of doing business. The health care sector has lagged behind but now it has an opportunity for unprecedented federal financial help. But the consumers and employers who are footing the bill for such improvements must see a return on their investment.”

CMS’ proposed rule lays the foundation for change. Providers that hope to qualify for incentives would be required to implement common sense measures like maintaining active medication lists for their patients in order to avoid dangerous drug interactions. They would also need to report on quality measures to demonstrate that patients are getting the care they need.

“The meaningful use incentive program is just that — an incentive program,” the letter continues. “It is not a mandate, and we do not believe it represents the regulation of an industry. Providers who want to implement HIT on a different timeline and with their own resources can do so. Those who seek and accept taxpayer dollars to more rapidly build out their capacity must demonstrate that those taxpayer dollars are used wisely to improve health outcomes, better engage patients and families in their care, and reduce health care costs.”

In the letter, the groups urge federal officials to stand strong against attempts by some stakeholders who want to see CMS slow down the implementation of the first year’s requirements. “Rather than just paying providers to digitize their records, the proposed rule would improve care coordination and communication. And when doctors, patients, and caregivers have the information they need at their fingertips and are talking with each other, consumers receive better care,” said Debra L. Ness, President of the National Partnership for Women & Families.

To see the letter, click here.

The National Partnership for Women & Families has released a new fact sheet: How the Meaningful Use of Health IT Could Benefit Consumers… If CMS Publishes a Strong and Robust Final Rule.

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About the National Partnership for Women & Families

The National Partnership for Women & Families is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, reproductive health and rights, access to quality, affordable health care and policies that help all people meet the dual demands of work and family.

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