Sen. Alexander: Electronic Health Records Program needs more time

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alex-ander (R-Tenn.) gave administration officials five reasons on Thursday to take more time before making final the Stage 3 rule of the federal government’s program to require doctors and hospitals to create electronic health records systems.

“The whole purpose of this program is to benefit patients, so that they and their health care providers have quicker and better access to their health histories and their doctors and hospitals and pharmacists can provide them with better care,” Alexander told administration witnesses at the Oct. 1 hearing, the committee’s sixth on electronic health records. “There is no reason not to take time to do it right, and there are plenty of reasons to do this.”

Alexander listed five key reasons:

  1. Stage 2 requirements are so complex that only 12 percent of physicians and 40 percent of hospitals have been able to comply, and rushing a Stage 3 rule would make it harder to comply.
  2. The administration’s new Medicare payment system pays out penalties and bonuses based in part on meaningful use compliance.
  3. Some of the nation’s leading medical institutions with the best electronic health records systems recommended taking more time.
  4. A new GAO report finds that meaningful use requirements are actually preventing records systems from being able to communicate with one another.
  5. The committee is working with the administration to develop seven areas of agreement for legislation to achieve interoperability.

Alexander said, “It would make the most sense to make the final rule consistent with the goals of that legislation.”

He also said, “There is broad and bipartisan interest in seeing the administration take its time to get this done right.”

He and Senate commerce committee chairman John Thune urged this in a letter they sent the administration on Sept. 29.

In a separate letter to the administration, a bipartisan group of 96 Republicans and 20 Democrats in the House of Representa-tives also asked for a pause in the process of making Stage 3 rules final.

To review the full text of Alexander’s remarks, visit

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