Healthcare IT Interoperability, EHR interoperability, Hospital Interoperability

Policy & Regulation News

Health IT Comparison Tool Task Force Hears from Providers

"If we really want to improve care to patients and reduce costs, we need immediate interoperability of EMRs."

- The Health IT Policy Committee’s Certified Technology Comparison (CTC) Task Force resumes its work this week as the group looks to build a tool for providers to use when assessing products needed for future health IT integration initiatives. When CTC last met in early December, committee members agreed that such a tool should be a significantly enhanced version of the current Certified Health IT Product List maintained by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC).

Primary care providers and specialists give feedback to the Health IT Policy Committee’s Certified Technology Comparison Task Force.

Thus far, CTC has wrestled with how to balance formulation of a “definitive user guide,” in the words of co-chair Christopher Ross of the Mayo Clinic, versus what information would be reasonable and practical for technology vendors to provide.

During a virtual hearing that takes place today (click here to access the call), two panels of primary care providers and specialists will provide feedback to CTC.

Douglas Ashinsky, MD, who has been practicing internal medicine for 28 years in Warren, N.J., and has served as an ONC Health IT Fellow, provided CTC with written testimony because he won’t be present for the virtual hearing. In his statement, Ashinsky questioned the development a new comparison tool — particularly in light of dwindling numbers of independent physicians:

“The time, effort and healthcare dollars that are being spent on this Certified Technology Comparison Tool should be spent on something that will improve healthcare. It would be better spent on stopping ‘data blocking by the vendors’ changing the ’10-year Roadmap to Healthcare Interoperability’ to a 1-2 year roadmap and [making] interoperability happen quickly. If we really want to improve the care to patients and reduce costs to the patient, we need immediate interoperability of the EMRs, and the ONC should force vendors to cooperate in achieving this goal.”

Another panelist, Matt Rafalski, MD, a primary care provider with Dayspring Family Health Center in rural Appalachia who is board certified in family medicine and clinical informatics, said he would use a health IT comparison tool for strategic planning if it were easy to use and up to date. The tool would be helpful in evaluating changes in attestation requirements and quality reimbursement programs established by government and private insurance entities, he added.

Rafalski further suggested that the tool focus on small practices. The tool’s format should also allow evaluation of modular components such as data-exchange APIs in addition to current categories of EHRs, portals, population health and practice management, he said. As a current health IT user, he indicated a need for providers to understand that EHR companies do not provide clinical IT implementation support; how difficult/easy it would be to use and customize new technology; and the specific advantages and limitations of individual EHRs.

CTC will hold a second virtual hearing to gain feedback from the health IT vendor community on Jan. 15. The task force’s final recommendations will be presented to a joint meeting of the Health IT Policy Committee and Health IT Standards Committee on Jan. 20.



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