It's no question that last year's American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) upped the ante for hospitals adopting electronic health records (EHRs), setting aside $19 billion in incentives for systems that meet specific criteria. To that effect, Dr. Mark Leavitt, chairman of the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT), called the U.S. economic stimulus package "the biggest thing that's ever happened in health IT."

But Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has some concerns about hospitals implementing health IT provisions under ARRA.

In recent months, Grassley, the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, learned about usability and formatting issues on some systems, administrative complications and errors. He found out about tangled communication lines among health care providers, vendors and hospital administrations. He also heard that in serious cases, some software miscalculated body weights swapping kilograms and pounds, which produced incorrect medication dosages.

In the fall, Grassley wrote letters to health IT vendors about these issues. Then, in January, he sent letters to 31 hospitals nationwide asking about their experiences.

"Given the taxpayer investment and the investment of the health care 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 statement.

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Russell Nichols  |  Staff Writer