GAO: $30B Incentive Program Making It More Difficult to Share Electronic Health Records

The federal government’s six-year-old, $30 billion Electronic Health Records (EHR) Incentive Programs – which were designed to cut medical costs by allowing doctors and hospitals serving Medicare and Medicaid recipients to share test results and clinical data – are having the opposite effect, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Representatives from 10 of 18 non-federal, non-profit participating organizations interviewed by GAO between April and September said that program requirements “divert resources and attention from other efforts to enable interoperability.”

As a result, the costs of trying to combine incompatible patient records is forcing medical costs up instead of down.

“Sixteen of the 18 initiatives are working to address the challenge of the reported high costs associated with interoperability,” GAO reported.

The EHR incentive program was funded under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act as part of the 2009 stimulus legislation.