An Open Letter to HHS Secretary Sebelius

We are very encouraged that the Voice of the Physician Petition has been acknowledged at the highest levels of government. After HHS (Department of Health and Human Services) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius received the petition that SRS sent to her—and simultaneously hand delivered to the HIT Policy Committee—Secretary Sebelius asked Dr. Blumenthal to respond to me. As head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Dr. Blumenthal chairs the HIT Policy Committee and, together with Secretary Sebelius, will accept or modify the recommendations on “meaningful use” and EHR certification that come from that committee and from CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services). In the interest of continuing this conversation, I am extending the following invitation to Secretary Sebelius, as I already have to Dr. Blumenthal:

Dear Secretary Sebelius:

I received Dr. Blumenthal’s letter and was glad to hear that you appreciate the input provided in the Voice of the Physician Petition. The ability of the EHR incentives to successfully encourage widespread adoption of EHRs is inextricably linked to the belief by physicians that EHR technology is of benefit to them, as well as to all the other stakeholders in the healthcare delivery system.

I would like to arrange a brief meeting with you to discuss these very important issues in person. As the CEO of SRS, with 12 years of experience listening to and working with front-line physicians, I can offer you some valuable insights into what community-based physicians are looking for and how they perceive the legislation—likely a different perspective than that being presented by committee members.

SRSsoft was recently named to the Inc. 5000 list of most rapidly growing companies, and was identified as one of the top 100 healthcare companies. Our success and growth is directly attributable to the fact that our EMR development is driven entirely by the needs of private-practice physicians.

As the representative of thousands of physicians who want their voices heard—SRS clients and non-clients alike—I would be happy to come to Washington to talk with you. I am confident that you would find the conversation valuable.

As Promised, Your Voice Was Heard

At Friday’s HIT Policy Committee meeting, SRSsoft Vice President of Government Affairs, Lynn Scheps, presented the Voice of the Physician petition to David Blumenthal, M.D., National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, and to each member of the committee (see pictures below). Lynn went to Washington, D.C., to make sure that the decision-makers heard your voice loudly and clearly—she urged them to read the petition and to heed the comments submitted by SRS clients and the comments written by non-SRS users. Taking the microphone, Lynn addressed the group with the following statement:

Presentation of the Voice of the Physician to the HIT Policy Committee
August 14, 2009

I have attended your past meetings via webcast, but I felt it was important to be here today to personally deliver this book, which you received this morning. The Voice of the Physician is a petition asking you to listen to private-practice physicians, on whose participation the success of the program depends. These are the physicians who will have to “achieve” what their EHR only has to be “capable of achieving.” They implore you to consider the daily realities of medical practice as you move forward.

The fact that a relatively small company like ours would receive such a response in just a few weeks, with minimal outreach efforts, is an indication of the deep level of concern pervading the physician community. Two things are clear: Physicians feel that their voice is not being heard and they perceive the government’s expectations as overly burdensome from a practical perspective.

The signers of this petition are not all SRS clients. Other providers reached out to us and asked that we stand up for them as well. SRS users or not, they are passionate about EHRs, and they speak from positive and negative experience with a variety of EHR products. Three fundamental themes dominated:

  • Physicians will not adopt technology that compromises their productivity,
  • They will not become data entry clerks, and
  • They will not jeopardize the physician-patient relationship.

No financial incentives or penalties will persuade these physicians to take actions they deem detrimental, or not valuable, to their practices.

One hundred and fifty of the signers of the petition are so concerned that they took the time to compose their own supplemental comments for you to consider. I hope that you will take the time to read through even a portion of them—their tone, intensity, and content provide valuable insight into what will be necessary to successfully encourage widespread EHR adoption.

Lynn Scheps, VP Government Affairs, SRS

SRS Vice President of Government Affairs, Lynn Scheps, distributes petition

Petition Distribution

The petition alongside the meeting agenda