MMS Urges Board of Registration in Medicine to Adopt Proposed Regulations on Licensure and Electronic Health Records

Contact:
Richard Gulla
(781) 434-7101
rgulla@mms.org

Waltham – Sept. 29, 2014 – The Massachusetts Medical Society today urged the State Board of Registration in Medicine (BRM) to adopt a set of proposed regulations that would satisfy a statutory requirement that physicians demonstrate proficiency in health information technology as a condition of maintaining their license to practice medicine.  

Testifying before the BRM, Medical Society Vice President James S. Gessner said that the requirement is a provision of Chapter 224, the state health reform law on cost control and quality enacted in August of 2012. 

Chapter 224 required the BRM to establish as a condition of licensure regulations that physicians “demonstrate proficiency in the use of computerized physician order entry, e-prescribing, electronic health records and other forms of health information technology, as determined by the board.”  The law further specified that to demonstrate such proficiency, physicians must establish the skills to comply with federal “meaningful use” requirements for health information technology.  The requirement takes effect January 1, 2015.

According to the Massachusetts eHealth Institute, however, only 15,000 physicians who practice in the state have met or are expected to meet federal meaningful use requirements.  The state currently licenses more than 40,000 physicians.  

“Most of the remaining physicians,” Dr. Gessner said, “are under the law ineligible for meaningful use incentives and could lose their license if this statute were interpreted to require meaningful use as a standard for licensure.”  That situation, he added, would severely affect patient access to care across the Commonwealth, as physicians are prohibited from practicing medicine without a license. 

In his testimony, Dr. Gessner said “The Board has been left to interpret this statutory requirement on its own in a logical manner that is productive and serves the interests of the public. The Massachusetts Medical Society strongly supports the proposed regulatory approach the Board has taken in compiling a thoughtful way to implement this requirement.”

Among the BRM’s proposals are a provision that applicants may demonstrate skills through their employment with, credentialing by, or contractual agreements with an eligible hospital or critical access hospital with a federally-certified meaningful use program; being either a participant or an authorized user in the Massachusetts Health Information Highway; or by completing three hours of continuing medical education in electronic records and meaningful use.  

The BRM also proposed several exemptions from the requirement: for those not engaged in the practice of medicine such as researchers; for medical residents and interns who are experienced with electronic records; for those holding an administrative license not engaged in direct patient care; for those with a volunteer license, as these physicians often provide care to the most vulnerable and needy patients; and for those on active military duty called into service during a national emergency. 

Another provision has been proposed to allow physicians coming to Massachusetts who have never been exposed to such a requirement to have the opportunity to be licensed and complete the requirement either through their employment site or other categories after arrival.

Dr. Gessner, while indicating that large numbers of physicians will be able to comply with the statutory requirement by participating in one of the proposed categories, also cautioned BRM members that “should any of these categories be eliminated or substantially changed, the impact would be profound on physicians, patients, and the Board itself to process such denials of licensure.”

Concluding his testimony, Dr. Gessner said “The medical society wishes to strongly commend the Board members and staff for a good job in implementing an unclear and potentially damaging statute. The medical community overwhelmingly supports the approach taken by the Board, and we urge the Board to adopt the regulations as currently drafted.”


The Massachusetts Medical Society, with more than 24,000 physicians and student members, is dedicated to educating and advocating for the patients and physicians of Massachusetts. The Society, under the auspices of NEJM Group, publishes the New England Journal of Medicine, a leading global medical journal and web site, and NEJM Journal Watch alerts and publications covering 13 specialties. The Society is also a leader in continuing medical education for health care professionals throughout Massachusetts, conducting a variety of medical education programs for physicians and health care professionals. Founded in 1781, MMS is the oldest continuously operating medical society in the country.

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