Senate bipartisan group aims to improve EHRs

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Senate leaders have formed a bipartisan group to identify ways to improve EHRs in the United States. The group is led by Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.), though all members of the Senate have been invited to participate.

"The goal of this working group is to identify the five or six things we can do to help make the failed promise of electronic health records something that physicians and providers look forward to instead of something they endure,” Alexander said in a statement, citing physician complaints that EHRs “disrupt workflow, interrupt the doctor-patient relationship and haven’t been worth the effort.”

The working group’s primary goal is to help Congress and the administration work together to improve EHRs, focusing on quality of care, interoperability, empowering patients with easy access to their health information, improving patient safety and protecting patient data. Both MU stage 3 requirements and the rapid rise of technology have led to a growing interest in EHRs in recent years.

Meetings begin immediately, and health professionals, health IT developers and government agencies all will be asked to participate.

“As we focus on making our health care system work better for families, electronic health records could not be more important,” Murray said in the statement. “Having more and better information can make all the difference for patients.”

If a recent HIMSS survey is any indication, healthcare executives would agree that there is significant work to be done on improving EHRs. Executives interviewed for the survey were uncertain about their own EHR strategies, and some seem to blame the MU requirements for taking away from true potential improvements to patient care enhancement.