Congressmen Push HHS, ONC to Add MU3 Requirements to Reduce Disparities in Care

Twenty-four members of the House of Representatives have written a letter to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner and National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo, MD, urging them to include requirements in meaningful use stage 3 that would reduce healthcare disparities across the country.

In the letter, the congressmen cite a similar urging from the Consumer Partnership for eHealth, a patient lobbying organization that has also called on federal leadership to use meaningful use to compel more equitable care access and delivery. The congressmen reiterate and affirm their support for several of the partnership's recommendations, including the following.

1. Improved data collection. Requiring hospitals to collect demographic data beyond what is currently mandated will help providers better identify where care disparities exist so they may be addressed. The congressmen advocate for more granular data collection similar to what the Census Bureau uses, as well as information on patients' sexual orientation, gender identity and disability status to improve care delivery to traditionally underserved populations.

2. Improved data use. The letter urges clinicians be required to use electronic health records to stratify patients' health statuses by relevant disparity variables such as race or gender identity, and this information should be used to report quality measures by at least two disparity variables in order to facilitate improvements in health and care delivery among the most vulnerable populations.

3. Improved health literacy and communication. To facilitate patient engagement, health IT platforms should be as accessible as possible, according to the letter. All patient-facing IT, including electronic communication with providers, should be required to be available in multiple languages and formats and for multiple literacy levels to avoid further increasing disparities in care delivery.

4. Improved access. Smartphones, in their ubiquity, can help bridge socioeconomic divides and reduce disparities in care, the congressmen argue. Therefore, they write, meaningful use stage 3 should require providers to offer patient access to their EHR though mobile devices, and providers should be able to accept sensed or patient-generated data from smartphone apps.

"The reduction of health disparities is one of the stated goals of the HITECH Act," write the congressmen. "As regulations regarding meaningful use stage 3 are promulgated, we ask that you incorporate these recommendations to not only give weight to that goal, but to make a positive life-altering impact for the nation's underserved and vulnerable populations."

More Articles on Meaningful Use:

Intermountain to Skip MU Attestation in 2014
Total EHR Incentive Payments Top $20B
CMS: No MU2 Delay, But Flexibility in Hardship Exemptions

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