Evening the Playing Field and Encouraging Interoperability

October 4, 2023

Collaborative Discussion on ONC's Certification Program for the entire healthcare continuum.

LTPAC HIT Collaborative

The landmark Health Information Technology for Economic & Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009 launched health IT standards development and hospital and physician adoption and use of “certified” health IT in the United States. The US Department of Health & Human Services’ (HHS’) Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), which is responsible for implementing the HITECH Act, created the Health IT Certification Program (Certification Program) to ensure that Certified Health Information Technology meets the technological capability, functionality and security requirements of this voluntary program.

While ONC’s Certification Program is built on the needs of acute and ambulatory care providers, we in the LTPAC Health IT Collaborative continue to explore ways to extend the meaningful use of those health IT standards that meet the needs of the entire healthcare continuum. The question we’ve been debating is whether there should be an EHR certification process for the LTPAC sector.

As ONC’s Health IT Advisory Committee (HITAC) considers this same question, we are revisiting comments that we shared with ONC in response to its Draft 2020-2025 Federal Health IT Strategic Plan. Read an excerpt from our 2020 comments:1

“The Collaborative agrees that there should be a baseline standard for health IT functionality and EHRs and recommends that the requirements and testing protocols be revisited. In the final 21st Century Cures Rule there were accommodations made for the pediatric community. The Collaborative recommends that ONC implement a similar adaptation of the EHR testing and certification program in the rule that assesses the differences and accommodates quality measurement, implementation, data and workflow pertinent to the LTPAC sector care delivery and collaborative care processes.”

Today, we encourage ONC and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to consider how states and payers are utilizing the Certification Program’s standards insetting new requirements. Often, these new requirements create a burden that serves as an impediment to improved health information exchange across the care continuum. LTPAC providers who were excluded from federal incentive funding under the HITECH Act, now are expected to meet many of the same requirements as hospitals and physicians who received incentive funding through CMS’ Meaningful Use and Promoting Interoperability Programs. So, the question we at the LTPAC Health IT Collaborative strive to answer is when will the federal government even the playing field and encourage widespread adoption and use of health IT?

1) Click here to open full comment letter from Collaborative to ONC

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