- A task force of the Health IT Policy Committee (HITPC) has begun assessing whether a tool could be created to compare certified health IT products when the current EHR meaningful use program folds into provisions of MACRA legislation in 2019. The Certified Technology Comparison (CTC) Task Force held its first meeting on Nov. 17 and concluded that such a tool is indeed necessary for future health IT integration — particularly for small providers — and should be upgraded from the format of the current Certified Health IT Product List (CHPL) maintained by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC).
The CTC Task Force is charged with providing recommendations on the most feasible public-private approaches that could be used to create and maintain a tool that would compare certified technology products to be used under the merit-based incentive system and value-based payment models mapped out by MACRA. Those recommendations are due to be presented to a joint meeting of HITPC and the Health IT Standards Committee (HITSC) on Jan. 20, 2016.
Dawn Heisey-Grove, staff lead at ONC, told the 9-person CTC panel that Congress has been hearing that healthcare providers have many technology choices in the marketplace, but need guidance on how to select them. “There are a lot of complaints from providers about current products,” she noted.
CTC Co-chair Anita Somplasky, director of Quality Insights, said her organization worked with over 6,000 physicians across Pennsylvania on EHR selection. “They struggled making decisions about which vendor was going to work for them,” she explained.
“During Stage 1 of meaningful use, there were many products that were certified through the CHPL website for just one measure of meaningful use. It was one thing to go through and make their choices, but then with the product that they ended up with, in many cases, there was a lot of rip and replace. It would have been helpful if there had been a better way to vet those vendors,” said Somplasky.
Steven Stack, president of the American Medical Association and CTC member, agreed, noting, “Navigating the CHPL is not the easiest. It’s not intuitive.”
“Part of this is to more clearly and accessibly shine a light on the true state of the technology,” said Stack. “I don’t know if Consumer Reports is the right example, but something with a clarity not unlike their bubble-dot rating [could] show where there are strengths and weaknesses in an objective way in order to drive improvement. I don’t think that those in the provider community who are compelled to buy the tools now feel that they have much in the way of leverage to drive innovation and change.”
CTC member John Travis, vice president and solution strategist for regulatory compliance at EHR vendor Cerner, pointed out that any new tool would have to account for vendor requirements under the recently released rulemaking for certified 2015 Edition EHRs. “Information is going to be made publicly available as a result of surveillance requirements for activities next year that certifying bodies will conduct,” said Travis. “There are a lot more information requirements stipulated to be available through vendor websites and made publicly available.”
Who will use the tools?
Heisey-Grove referenced ONC data from the federal EHR Incentive Programs to illustrate that physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants lag well behind eligible hospitals and rural/critical access hospitals in achieving meaningful use. Those groups would likely benefit most from a new technology comparison tool, particularly new adopters, and those upgrading, supplementing or replacing existing technology.
“It feels like the sweet spot is, to some degree, physicians in smaller practices. It’s not the only focus, but it’s clearly a focus,” said CTC co-chair Cris Ross, CIO at the Mayo Clinc.
Heisey-Grove added that Congress has asked for tools that would allow consumers to select products from a list and compare features — with detailed information about each product for the selected features. Some of the existing tools such as CHPL are free, while others in the marketplace charge fees — another consideration to be weighed in the CTC’s upcoming recommendations.
From here, CTC will meet again on Dec. 1 to discuss provider and vendor needs for a proposed comparison tool. The task force will also hold virtual hearings with expert panels over the next month to inform their assessment. Draft recommendations are due to HITPC and HITSC on Dec. 8 and 10, respectively. Recommendations will be finalized by Jan. 19 in preparation for presentation at the joint HITPC/HITSC meeting the following day.