HHS has a plan to reduce health IT, EHR burden

HHS has a new strategy to ease the use of health information technology, including electronic health records. The agency’s draft strategy takes aim at some major complaints clinicians have about using EHRs, including documentation hours taking away from time spent with patients.

Adoption of EHRs––and interoperability of health IT––has long been a goal of HHS, but significant headwinds have lead to a somewhat slow adoption and feelings of discontent among physicians across the healthcare industry. Interoperability and specific health information exchange goals are also mandated and outlined under the 21st Century Cures Act, which was signed into law by President Obama at the end of his second term in December 2016.

Administrative burdens associated with EHR use are a top complaint among clinicians, leading to “note bloat” caused by required documentation guidelines.

“There is a growing consensus that, while it has made an unprecedented amount of information about patients available to them, technology has yet make the practice of medicine easier for physicians and other health care professionals,” the draft strategy reads.

Additionally, clinicians believe they rely too much on checkboxes, templates, cut-and-paste functions and other workarounds beyond the intent of EHRs, according to HHS.

“With the significant growth in EHRs comes frustration caused, in many cases, by regulatory and administrative requirements stacked on top of one another,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. “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 draft strategy specifically aims to reduce the effort and time required to record health information in EHRs, reduce the impact of regulatory reporting requirements for clinicians, hospitals and healthcare organizations, and make EHRs easier to use.

“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,” Don Rucker, national coordinator for health information technology with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), said in a statement. “I look forward to input from the public to improve this strategy.”

Find the draft strategy, which is open to public comment until January 28, 2019, here.