Harnessing the power of information technology to improve care requires giving providers greater flexibility to deploy electronic health records, holding vendors accountable for safe, interoperable products and providing certainty on the transition to the ICD-10 coding system by implementing the new codes on Oct. 1, the AHA March 17 told the Senate, Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

In a statement submitted to the committee for its hearing on “America’s Health IT Transformation,” the AHA underscored that hospitals are working hard to meet the many requirements of the meaningful use program while still struggling with the transition to Stage 2 rules.

The association recommended policymakers shorten the reporting period for meaningful use from a full year to 90 days; not hold hospitals accountable for vendor-related delays in technology; and wait until enough hospitals and physicians have met Stage 2 before setting the start date or requirements for Stage 3.

A reporting period of one-quarter in fiscal year (FY) 2015 would “keep hospitals on track at a pace that supports safe implementation,” the AHA stated. “It also would allow hospitals to optimize new technology for clinical care and build information-sharing networks.”

The association noted that a bipartisan group of House lawmakers have introduced a bill, the “Flexibility in Health IT Report” or Flex-IT Act, H.R. 270, to give hospitals and eligible professionals a 90-day reporting period and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has signaled its intent to offer the flexibility. “However, more needs to be done to make it a reality, now that we are almost halfway through FY 2015,” the AHA said.

Noting that the deadline for updating to ICD-10 has already been delayed several times, AHA said further delays would “only add costs, as existing investments will be further wasted and future costs will grow.”

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