Government Pushes ONC to Block EHRs that Fall Short

Congress has instructed the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) to wield its electronic health record (EHR) certification powers to block the use of EHRs that impede information sharing.

The 2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill passed by Congress earlier in December states that “ONC should use its authority to certify only those products that clearly meet current meaningful use program standards and that do not block health information exchange. ONC should take steps to decertify products that proactively block the sharing of information because those practices frustrate congressional intent, devalue taxpayer investments in [Certified EHR Technology], and make CEHRT less valuable and more burdensome for eligible hospitals and eligible providers to use,” the document says.

As Health Data Management reported back in March, the Federal Trade Commission meeting about healthcare competition raised the issue of market failures that impede the flow of patient information among providers, such as a lack of interoperability among EHRs and related systems. At that meeting, ONC’s Jodi Daniel, director of the Office of Policy and Planning, noted that transparency about product usability, as well as pricing for health information exchange, keeps information exchange in a closed loop.

ONC currently has the authority to certify or not certify products that help providers meet requirements for the “meaningful use” EHR Incentive Program. The Omnibus legislation, then, directs ONC to act accordingly and prove that it is doing so by requiring the agency to submit reports to Congress.

The reports must be submitted by no less than 90 days after the law’s enactment, and they must detail “the technical, operational and financial barriers to interoperability, the role of certification in advancing or hindering interoperability across various providers, as well as any other barriers identified by the Policy Committee.”

Click here to read the full text of the bill.

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