February 21, 2020
HHS Issues Strategy to Improve Care for Patients by Reducing Clinician Burdens
As part of the ongoing efforts to strengthen the relationship between patients and their doctors, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today issued the Strategy on Reducing Regulatory and Administrative Burden Relating to the Use of Health IT and EHRs.
This report describes examples of electronic health record (EHR) related burden, as well as strategies and recommendations that HHS and other stakeholders can use to help clinicians focus their attention on patients rather than paperwork, when they use health information technology (health IT).
"Usable, interoperable health IT is essential to a healthcare system that puts the patient at the center, like President Trump has promised," said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. "We received feedback from hundreds of organizations and healthcare providers on this new burden-reduction strategy, and the input made clear that there are plenty of steps still necessary to make IT more usable for providers and maximize the promise of electronic health records."
The development of the report, required under the 21st Century Cures Act, was led by the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) in conjunction with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The initial draft, issued in November 2018, represented HHS's assessment and response to feedback heard from a wide variety of health IT stakeholders, from practicing clinicians to health IT developers.
The report released today reflects additional input from the more than 200 comments submitted in response to the draft strategy and recommendations. The report outlines three primary goals and offers recommendations to:
- Reduce the effort and time required to record information in EHRs for health care providers when they are seeing patients;
- Reduce the effort and time required to meet regulatory reporting requirements for clinicians, hospitals, and health care organizations; and
- Improve the functionality and intuitiveness (ease of use) of EHRs.
"The strategy we are releasing today takes a hard look at ways that the federal government and stakeholders can work together to reduce the administrative and technological burdens experienced by healthcare providers," said Don Rucker, M.D., national coordinator for health IT. "Patients will benefit from these efforts because their physicians will spend more time focused on them instead of their keyboards."
Specifically, ONC and CMS looked at four key areas and offered strategies to address each area:
- Clinical documentation
- Health IT usability (or ease of use of health IT tools and systems)
- Federal health IT and EHR reporting requirements
- Public health reporting (including coordination with prescription drug reporting programs and electronic prescribing of controlled substances).
"The taxpayers made a massive investment in EHRs with the expectation that it would solve the many issues that plagued paper-bound health records," said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. "Unfortunately – as this report shows – in all too many cases, the cure has been worse than the disease. Twenty years into the 21st century, it's unacceptable that the application of Health IT still struggles to provide ready access to medical records – access that might mean the difference between life and death. The report's recommendations provide valuable guidance on how to minimize EHR burden as we seek to fulfill the promise of an interoperable health system."
The report explains that different types of administrative burden can affect different healthcare providers, but is focused on those healthcare providers that are directly involved in delivery of patient care. Those may include physicians, nurses, and other clinical staff; practice managers and other administrators immediately engaged in the management of care delivery; and care delivery institutions, such as hospitals.
For a copy of the report, visit: https://www.healthit.gov/topic/usability-and-provider-burden/strategy-reducing-burden-relating-use-health-it-and-ehrs