HHS releases strategy for reducing EHR administrative burden

February 21, 2020 09:00 AM




HHS on Friday acknowledged that electronic health records pose a significant burden on clinicians and suggested tactics the federal government can pursue to ease the pain.

The strategy, published by the CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, was mandated by the 21st Century Cures Act.

The agencies have been working on the strategy since mid-2017. A draft strategy was released in late 2018 and elicited more than 200 comments from the public.

The final report is a reflection of the input from those comments and listening sessions with clinicians and others, said Dr. Andrew Gettinger, chief clinical officer of the ONC.

The strategy identified four main areas that contribute to administrative burden: clinical documentation; health information technology usability; public health reporting requirements, and federal health IT and EHR reporting requirements.

But there are ways the federal government can address those challenges. One strategy is HHS increasing adoption of electronic prescribing of controlled substances with consideration for provider preferences and workflow to alleviate public health reporting challenges.

Gettinger said the ONC and the CMS are already implementing many of the strategies. The CMS has changed the coding framework clinicians use for office visits, called E/M codes.

Some of the recommendations in the report may also be laid out in the ONC’s pending proposed interoperability rule, Gettinger said.

ONC will likely have more to say about EHR burden. Gettinger said HHS plans to continuously review the strategy as “new challenges come into play.”

The strategy also isn’t meant to be a solution for the entire industry for health IT administrative burden; it focuses on what the federal government can do to address the problem, Gettinger said.

He added that the private sector also has a significant role to play. Health systems can contribute to clinician burnout through how they train staff to use the EHR or how they set up the system.

“It’s so easy to just blame the computer,” he said.

The ONC has made efforts to educate providers on EHR best practices including its Health IT Playbook, which is a tool for front-line staff, administrators and other on how to leverage health technology.