Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) is taking a close look at electronic medical records, asking EMR providers and their hospital customers about any problems they’ve had with the systems.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Grassley asked about 30 hospitals around the country for details on their experiences with EMRs, including "complications," "errors" and "problems." Last fall, Grassley dunned about 10 EMRT providers seeking similar information, the Journal reports.
With the federal government poised to spend nearly $20 billion promoting the use of EMRs, the question of whether they work as promised looms large. Grassley wants to know if "gag orders" in contracts with EMR firms prevent hospitals from discussing any problems with other healthcare providers. He also wants to know who’s on the hook if an EMR system fails.
"In the letters to the hospitals, he says that one company told him ‘it is not liable when harm or loss results from the client’s use of the product in diagnosing and/or treating patients,’" the Journal reported.
In addition to sending queries to hospitals including Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Mass. General Hospital andTufts Medical Center, Grassley last fall asked 3M, Allscripts, Cerner, Cognizant, Computer Sciences Corp., Eclipsys, Epic Systems, McKesson, Perot Systems and Philips Healthcare for details on their systems and policies, according to the newspaper.
Earlier this year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a 556-page proposal for guidelines to determine which doctors’ offices and hospitals will be eligible to tap the federal EMR promotion funds.
Part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed into law last year set aside the cash for physician practices and hospitals that can show "meaningful use" of EMR technology, but didn’t spell out how such use would be determined. That left the medical industry wondering who would be eligible to collect what could amount to $40,000 per doc over the course of a few years.