U.S. Senate Passes Electronic Health Fairness Act

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On August 5, the U.S. Senate passed the Electronic Health Fairness Act of 2015, protecting physicians practicing in ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) from meaningful use penalties from the Medicare program.

Every year medical facilities must prove that that are using certified electronic health record technology (CEHRT), which is useful in collecting and syncing patient health records. The problem is that there is no certified electronic health record technology that is optimized for the ASC setting. This legislation’s protection will extend until a CEHRT is made available to ASCs.

“At AMSURG, we’re excited the U.S. Senate has passed the Electronic Health Record Fairness Act of 2015,” said Eric Thrailkill, vice president and chief information officer. “We are advocates of clinical documentation and implementation of electronic health records at AMSURG as we recognize the benefits these systems can provide in care coordination, clinical decision support and research. However, the original HITECH requirements placed an unfair burden on physicians deriving greater than 50 percent of their encounters at ASCs due to documentation requirements more suitable for the physician practice environment versus clinical documentation to support the surgical procedure. This legislation ensures physicians will not be unfairly penalized, while clinical documentation systems (‘electronic health records’) can be designed and implemented specifically for the ASC environment.”

Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Senator Michael Bennett (D-CO) spearheaded the effort to introduce and move this legislation in conjunction with the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association (ASCA). Coordinating legislation was passed in the U.S. House of Representatives just a few months ago.

AMSURG also played a role in the push for this legislation. “Kimberly Franks, vice president of center applications, and I were both involved in advocacy initiatives with ASCA – meeting Congressional members and their staff to educate them on this particular issue,” Thrailkill said. “Through the initial sponsorship of this legislation by Congresswoman Diane Black (R-TN), ASCA provided continued support through passage in the House and the Senate.”

The fight, however, is not over yet. Having passed two separate, though coordinating, bills, the House and Senate must now work together to synthesize the marginally different bills into a single, cohesive piece of legislation. Congress has until December when this term ends to pass the amalgamated bill.

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