AHA Slams MU Patient Portal Requirement, Pundits Slam AHA

Posted on May 7, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

As readers know, CMS is now reviewing comments on the proposed rules for Stage 2 Meaningful Use.  Not surprisingly, one of the reviewers who’s sent in a critique is the American Hospital Association (AHA), which a few days ago sent a 68-page barrage complaining about the burden imposed on hospitals by on Stage 1 MU requirements.

Yesterday, the AHA made another MU move, this time slamming CMS’s Stage 2 proposal that hospitals be required to offer patients access their protected health information via a portal.  As I noted in the previous post on AHA, I’m surprised at how late to the game AHA is — trade groups like these aren’t known for their delicacy — and this notion has been in the air since well before CMS made it an official proposal.

Anyway, in its current letter to CMS on portals, the AHA has given them a big thumbs-down. “CMS’s plan is not supported by current technology, raises significant security issues, and goes beyond current technical capacity,” the group argues in its issue brief.

The AHA argues that with systems integration levels still dicey, hospitals are being asked to offer data in a way that may end up violating HIPAA. (Unspoken additional thought: “And then you’re going to blame us, aren’t ya, huh, you meanies!”)

Since AHA issued the statement, talking heads have popped up to bash the AHA’s position, arguing that the hospital group is dragging its feet just as the most important part of the work has begun, i.e. empowering patients to share, use and benefit from their own health information.

Well, yes and no. While I’m known for ridiculing the trade group talking heads in this business, I’d wait just a minute before we declare the AHA to be the bad guys here.

On the one hand, I can see where people are frustrated with hospitals picking this moment to complain about the task at hand. It’s not as though they’re hearing about it for the first time.

On the other hand, creating a really bulletproof portal is no joke, either, and there’s definitely some truth in the notion that making it everything it should be is very tough.  Hey, there’s no point in denying it; creating a patient portal may remain a part of MU Stage 2 requirements, but it’s not going to be a walk in the garden for hospitals.  Let’s not come down on them too hard if they flinch.