Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa has asked 31 of the nation's largest hospitals and health systems to detail their problems implementing the $19 billion federal HIT program that was launched last year.
Grassley said that his 11-question survey is a response to complaints he's heard from providers about administrative complications, formatting and usability issues, errors, and interoperability roadblocks.
"Given the taxpayer investment and the investment of the healthcare system overall in the information technology industry, the more Congress and others overseeing implementation of this program dig into the problems and work to get them sorted out now, the better," Grassley said in a media release.
The ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee said providers have cited instances where software produced incorrect medication dosages because it miscalculated body weights by interchanging kilograms and pounds. Grassley said providers have also complained that their concerns and questions about software snafus are being "ignored or dismissed" by vendors and hospital administrators.
"Some sources recount difficulties in approaching the HIT vendor with problems and the lack of venue to discuss these issues either with the vendor or peer organizations," Grassley said. "Often this is attributed to alleged ‘gag orders' or non-disclosure clauses in the HIT contract that prohibit healthcare providers and their facilities from sharing information outside of their facilities regarding product defects and other HIT product-related concerns."
Grassley said some HIT products do not have to meet reporting requirements for adverse events under the FDA's Manufacturer and User Facility Experience database. "Thus, problems with these products may go without remedy thereby inhibiting the ability of the healthcare professional to provide quality care and potentially impacting patient safety," he said. "Furthermore, contractual restrictions on the sharing of experiences and information related to specific vendor products limit a healthcare facility's ability to make informed decisions about HIT adoption and implementation."