Congress Dishes Out HIT Budgets, Interoperability Probes

Anthony Brino | Government Health IT | December 22, 2014

Ten years after the creation of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, amid record partisan discord, lawmakers are trying to address problems they see in the direction of health IT’s evolution.  In the “Cromnibus” — the $1 trillion Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 — signed by President Obama, Congress has dispensed some new interoperability requests for the ONC, as well as mandates for the veterans and military health systems.  In a report accompanying the Cromnibus, Congress asked ONC to decertify electronic health records software that “block” data exchange.

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,” the report reads. “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.”

Congress asked the ONC to draft a report, by March, outlining the problem of information blocking, with estimates on the number of vendors, eligible hospitals and providers blocking exchange. The ONC’s Health IT Policy Committee has also been asked to report on the technical, operational, financial and policy barriers to interoperability, by the end of 2015.  The Cromnibus itself does not mandate ONC to make any decertifications from its list of EHR systems approved for the Meaningful Use program, although the agency said it will issue the reports...