The Commonwealth Fund’s Blumenthal, who directed the government’s health IT enterprise during the first stage of Meaningful Use, has a different view. “If the healthcare market functioned like other markets, Meaningful Use and the HITECH law would have been unnecessary,” he points out. But in many cases, the market has failed to engender the innovations that are needed to move healthcare forward, he says.
For example, he argues, EHR vendors never would have provided patient portals and clinical decision support features on their own, if not for Meaningful Use.
Another failure of both vendors and providers, he says, is the inability to create interoperability among EHRs. “The technology could be there if people really wanted to do it. The problem is that the market doesn’t work. In theory, everyone wants to exchange information; in practice, very few people actually do it. And vendors don’t want to do it, either.”
Nevertheless, Filer, for one, remains optimistic that CMS will create a better program that will not only be less intrusive, but will spur the kind of progress that will make EHRs easier to use and more useful. “If we could have a high functioning, interoperable EHR that allows me to get information on patients, that would be great. We all support that idea and the promise of it, but we haven’t seen it yet.”