Health Information Management

Senators take aim at ONC Interoperability Roadmap

HIM-HIPAA Insider, March 23, 2015

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by Jaclyn Fitzgerald, Editor
In a recent Health Affairs blog post, five U.S. senators criticized the Office of the National Coordinator’s (ONC) Interoperability Roadmap and the $35 billion HITECH Act investment. The senators state that there is little evidence that the HITECH Act has lived up to its promises of increasing efficiency, reducing costs, and improving the quality of care.
Industry leaders believe that interoperability is key to creating a more efficient healthcare system, although EHRs continue to be a pain point for physicians. According to physician surveys, nearly half of all physicians will have their Medicare payments reduced in 2015 for failure to adopt EHR benchmarks, the blog reported.
The senators support the concept of the ONC Interoperability Roadmap, but noted that it does not specify objectives, deadlines, and action items necessary for the adoption and development of health information technology.
Furthermore, they noted that although the government has spent nearly $28 billion of the $35 billion allotted for HITECH Act provisions, progress toward interoperability remains elusive. Specifically, Stage 1 of CMS’ Meaningful Use Incentive Programs failed to include meaningful health information exchange requirements and lacked information about achieving interoperability.
The senators also pointed out that although the Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2009 that interoperability would save Medicare and Medicaid programs $12.5 billion through 2019, these savings have not yet materialized. The ONC roadmap fails to specify how the office would “evaluate cost or incorporate cost control into the development and scaling of interoperability,” according to the blog.
The roadmap lists seven ways in which to evaluate the quality and quantity of information as it flows through interoperable systems, but does not provide specific performance goals for each measurement, the senators stated.
Although the ONC roadmap indicated that government collaboration could support ONC security goals, the roadmap did not list clear, obtainable goals for security requirements and implementation. In addition, the roadmap fails to address the long-term sustainability of EHRs, according to the blog post.

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