MGMA: HITECH provision puts unnecessary burden on practices

June 10, 2010

A new provision under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act places an administrative burden on physician practices that could discourage them from adopting electronic health record systems, according to the Medical Group Management Association.

A new provision under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act places an administrative burden on physician practices that could discourage them from adopting electronic health record (EHR) systems, according to the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA). In comments submitted to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR), MGMA said the new provision requires "burdensome and unnecessary" accounting of personal health information disclosures.

A 2003 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act privacy rule allowed patients to request from practices an accounting of disclosures of their protected health information. The new provision expands the type of information that practices are required to provide in this accounting, necessitating medical groups with EHR systems to track all disclosures of patient information, including those made for treatment, payment, and healthcare operation.

According to new MGMA online member research of more than 360 practice administrators, 69 percent stated that they had received no accounting-for-disclosure requests from patients in the previous year, and an additional 22 percent had received 10 or fewer requests during that time. Administrators participating in the survey expressed concerns regarding the cost, staff training, and computer upgrades necessary to comply with the new provision. 

"We certainly hope the agency will take a serious look at revising these requirements," said William F. Jessee, MD, MGMA president and chief executive officer. "The current approach to accounting for disclosures clearly runs counter to the goal of improving patient care, increasing efficiency, and decreasing cost through administrative simplification and accelerated adoption of EHRs by medical groups. MGMA will continue to work with OCR to ensure that reasonable and realistic policies are in place that keep patient information private and secure as the nation's medical groups make the transition to electronic technology."