Incoming AMA President Robert Wah Defends EHRs

Kenneth J. Terry, MA

Disclosures

June 05, 2014

In This Article

A Firestorm Around EHRs

Electronic health record (EHR) systems and other forms of health IT have never been more controversial -- or more important -- in healthcare than they are today. Against a backdrop of rising physician dissatisfaction with EHRs, the federal government recently announced policy changes that, in essence, place its Meaningful Use EHR incentive program on hold. Meanwhile, it has become increasingly clear that the future of healthcare reform and of new care delivery models depends on health IT.

Dr. Robert M. Wah

At this critical juncture, the American Medical Association (AMA) has chosen as its new president a physician who is also a health IT expert. Dr. Robert M. Wah, a reproductive endocrinologist, is Global Chief Medical Officer of CSC, a major health IT consulting firm. A decade ago, he set up the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) and was appointed as the first deputy national coordinator. Dr. Wah also served as associate CIO of the Military Health System and as vice chairman of the US Navy's largest ob/gyn department.

In a recent Medscape interview (conducted while he was still the president-elect of the AMA), Dr. Wah said he could speak only on behalf of CSC. Nevertheless, the interview yielded some insights into how he might lead the nation's largest medical association in the increasingly contentious area of information technology.

Dr. Wah applauded the proposed rule changes of ONC and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that allow physicians to use 2011-certified EHRs this year, whether they're in stage 1 or stage 2 of Meaningful Use, and to postpone attesting to stage 2 if they're not ready this year.[1] More physicians are likely to attest to the stage 2 requirements in 2015 than would have otherwise because of the policy shifts, he said.

The AMA president-elect said he supported the idea of requiring doctors to use EHRs in certain ways to qualify for government incentives. However, he said, the overall goals of the Meaningful Use program and the progress made to date should be reviewed before moving further in the process.

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