‘Enraged’ by 30-day window
Groups call AHA out of touch with patients over medical-data delay
The American Hospital Association’s insistence on a 30day window to provide patients with their medical data catalyzed Internet critics with patient advocates saying the group was out of touch with patient needs. The online discussion grew so heated that the AHA on the afternoon of May 2 released a statement via Twitter calling criticisms “inaccurate.”
The AHA submitted its public comment to the CMS regarding Stage 2 meaningful-use rules via a 68-page letter signed by AHA Executive Vice President Richard Pollack, dated April 30.
The comment letter drew fire for a suggestion that hospitals be required to release digital patient records “without unreasonable delay and no later than 30 days following the request” rather than within 36 hours of discharge, as the CMS proposed.
The AHA reasoned that hospitals didn’t have the proper technology to share information any faster and that 80% of hospitals have failed to meet Stage 1 requirements. The group also mentioned the security concerns and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act as an obstacle in releasing data.
Christine Bechtel, vice president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, took to her blog on the morning of May 2 and wrote that the AHA “has little interest in advancing meaningful-use criteria that would result in tangible benefits for patients.” Bechtel, who serves on the federal government’s Health IT Policy Committee,
called the AHA’S reluctance to share data digitally a “culture issue.” She called for her readers to submit comments to HHS, and as of late last week, more than 4,500 had done so, she said.
Others quickly joined Bechtel in ripping the request for the 30day limit and using HIPAA as a reason: “The argument that the existence of these HIPAA provisions prevents CMS from imposing more meaningful access to patient data as a condition of receiving substantial taxpayer subsidies is the legal equivalent of a ‘Hail Mary pass,’” wrote Deven Mcgraw, director of the Health Privacy Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology based in Washington.
AHA Director of Policy Chantal Worzala defended the AHA’S position, saying the intent is to comply with patient request faster than 30 days, but that the 36-hour window is unrealistic. “The reality is that we have to work with the technology that’s available today, which many have labeled maturing,” she said. “And we have IT systems that right now can’t talk to each other, so you do need some time to get the information together.”
Worzala’s explanation wasn’t enough for Bechtel, who said she and “those who understand the patient view” continued to be “enraged” by the notion of waiting 30 days for their records.