By Matt Cover, StaffWriter
The obesity-rating regulationstates that every American's electronic health record must: “Calculate bodymass index. Automatically calculate and display body mass index (BMI) based on apatient’s height and weight.”
The law also requires that these electronichealth records be available--with appropriate security measures--on a nationalexchange.
The new regulations are one of the first steps towards thegovernment’s goal of universal adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) by2014, as outlined in the 2009economic stimulus law. Specifically, the regulations issued on Tuesday byHealth and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Dr. David Blumenthal,the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, define the"meaningful use" of electronic records. Under the stimulus law, health careproviders--including doctors and hospitals--must establish "meaningful use" ofEHRs by 2014 in order to qualify for federal subsidies. After that, they will besubjected to penalties in the form of diminished Medicare and Medicaid paymentsfor not establishing "meaningful use" of EHRs.
Section3001 of the stimulus law says: "The National Coordinator shall, inconsultation with other appropriate Federal agencies (including the NationalInstitute of Standards and Technology), update the Federal Health IT StrategicPlan (developed as of June 3, 2008) to include specific objectives, milestones,and metrics with respect to the following: (i) The electronic exchange and useof health information and the enterprise integration of such information.‘‘(ii)The utilization of an electronic health record for each person in the UnitedStates by 2014."
Under this mandate in the stimulus law, SecretarySebelius issued a regulation--developed by Dr. Blumenthal--that requiresthat all EHRs keep track of a person’s Body Mass Index (BMI) score. Body MassIndex is a ratio between a person’s weight and height, and is used to determinewhether or not someone is overweight or obese. It is the preferred method of theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for measuringobesity.
Michelle Obama has made dealing with the problem of childhoodobesity the main theme of her term as First Lady.
According to the CDC, “BMI provides a reliable indicator of body fatness for most people and is usedto screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems.”
Aperson’s BMI score is used as a tool to screen for obesity or excessive body fatthat could lead to other health problems. While it does not actually measurebody fat directly, according to CDC, the BMI scores generally correlate with aperson’s body fat percentage.
The new regulations also stipulate thatthe new electronic records be capable of sending public health data to state andfederal health agencies such as HHS and CDC. The CDC, which calls Americansociety “obesogenic” – meaning that American society itself promotes obesity –collects BMI scores from state health agencies every year to monitor obesitynationwide.
“Electronically record, retrieve, and transmit syndromebased public health surveillance information to public health agencies,” theregulations read.
With the spread of electronic health records, the CDCapparently will be able to collect such data more efficiently and with greateraccuracy because the electronic record keeping systems can send the dataautomatically, eliminating the need for government – both state and federal – tokeep, send, and process physical records."