WASHINGTON, DC (October 5, 2011)athenahealth, Inc. (NASDAQ: ATHN) Chairman and CEO Jonathan Bush today released the following statement on the potential of health information technology for improving patient care and reducing healthcare costs, and on the importance of making meaningful use of electronic health records (EHR) truly meaningful. Bush released the statement in conjunction with a meeting of the HIT Policy Committee Meaningful Use Workgroup and his participation in the Institute for e-Health Policy’s Congressional Luncheon Seminar Series panel, Unlocking the Value of Health Data.

“The government needs to take steps now to ensure that meaningful use is actually meaningful. The electronic health records incentive program is a nearly $30 billion program that is critical to improving patient outcomes and we need to get it right. While the HITECH Act has allowed for greater competition in the EHR marketplace, the current Meaningful Use certification process could also lead to enormous disparities in what physicians and hospitals are able to do with their EHRs and in their ability to positively impact patient care.

“It’s not too late to ensure a strong EHR program. There are currently 788 certified ambulatory EHR products, but all EHRs are not created equal. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) should increase market transparency by urging EHR vendors to release more performance data so that providers can make informed EHR purchases and invest in systems that will help realize the goals of the Meaningful Use incentive program.

“For Meaningful Use of an EHR to be truly meaningful, the government will have to hold providers and their EHR vendors to higher standards in the implementation of measures that require the exchange of data, as opposed to simply allowing dummy data and failed tests to qualify a provider for payment. Not only should the government hold providers and EHR vendors to higher standards to achieve care coordination, but CMS should enact a strong enough audit process to ensure that all attested providers have actually done the work necessary to make the use of their EHR meaningful.

“To increase the integrity of the program and leverage data that should already be maintained in EHRs, CMS should aggressively pursue a registry-based submission process for provider attestation. Until Meaningful Use performance data can be electronically submitted from a provider’s EHR, attestation unnecessarily remains a subjective and qualitative measure of success – forcing undue stress on providers, creating the need for stringent and costly after-the-fact audits, and underutilizing the capabilities of EHRs.”