Twenty-five of the nation’s largest and most powerful consumer groups filed collective comments on Friday that commend many components of the proposed Meaningful Use Stage 2 criteria included in the Health Information Technology (HIT) Policy Committee’s Request for Comments.
In a letter sent to the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the groups — representing tens of millions of Americans — laud the proposed Stage 2 Meaningful Use criteria for the steps they take toward a “seamless integration of health information, coordination of care… and the ability to monitor improvements in outcomes and functional status.” The criteria are also to be commended for helping patients and their caregivers interact with the health care system in more effective ways, the letter says.
The comments were organized by the National Partnership for Women & Families, which helps lead both the Consumer Partnership for e-Health and the Campaign for Better Care. They are signed by AARP, the AFL-CIO, Consumers Union, Families USA, the National Alliance for Caregiving, National Family Caregivers Association, National Health Law Program, SEIU and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, among others.
“Robust advancement of meaningful use criteria is essential both to ensure a return on investment for taxpayers who are funding the incentives and to lay a firm foundation for meeting the broad goals of health care reform,” the letter says. It identifies key roles that consumers will play in helping to improve care, including acting as agents of change, making informed health decisions, verifying facts and providing context, and integrating better health into the context of their lives. Signers say they strongly support:
- The transition of all “optional” criteria from Stage 1 to “required” in Stage 2 to ensure progress continues to be made;
- Advancements in key criteria having an impact on quality and safety, such as medication reconciliation and ePrescribing;
- Improvements in recording advance directives and their content; and
- Advancements in criteria that help engage patients and families in their care, such as being able to download health information electronically.
The consumer comment letter supports providing online access to patients’ own health data, as well as secure patient messaging, which the signers say are critical to continuing public support for Meaningful Use investments. Those signing the letter also urge ONC to resist pressure from many in the provider community to absolve them of responsibility for encouraging patients’ actual use of such online services.
The one area that could be strengthened, according to the letter, is criteria that require actual exchange of information. Two-way exchange of information is critical to harnessing the full potential of health IT to deliver the kind of care patients want — which is more coordinated, effective and affordable. The consumer signers also urge policy-makers to ensure that Stage 2 Meaningful Use includes the key functions to support patient-centered Quality Measures in Stages 2 and 3.
The full letter, and a list of all 25 signers, is posted at www.nationalpartnership.org/MU2.