- The Pew Charitable Trusts and the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) recently submitted a joint letter to congressional appropriators requesting they ensure ONC has adequate funding to implement the EHR reporting program.
In the letter, the organizations stated recent congressional testimony from ONC officials indicated the agency would likely be unable to implement provisions from the 21st Century Cures Act if the President’s most recent budget request is enacted.
“We urge you to ensure that the agency has the resources it needs to implement these provisions, which will provide greater transparency to clinicians and hospitals that they technology they purchase is interoperable and usable,” wrote the organizations.
Specifically, Congress established an EHR reporting program mandating that EHR developers submit data on the functions of their health IT products.
“Through this program, hospitals, clinicians and other users of health information technology would have greater transparency on how these products perform, including their ability to exchange data with other systems—known as interoperability—and usability—which refers to the layout of the systems and how they’re used,” they wrote.
The provision could also help to reduce clinician burden, support care coordination, and improve patient safety. In addition, implementing the EHR reporting program could contribute to the establishment of new requirements relating to EHR certification.
“To meet these new conditions of certifications, EHRs must address a series of criteria, including not restricting communication on their product’s performance, attesting to real world testing, and submitting data related to the EHR reporting program,” wrote the organizations. “As a result, the conditions of certification established in Cures can also not be met until the reporting program is established.”
While Congress had previously authorized $15 million through Cures to help HHS implement the program, recent testimony from ONC Deputy National Coordinator Jon White revealed the agency will likely be unable to enact it.
“The President’s budget proposal reduces the ONC budget by $22 million, or by more than a third of its total funding, even though the agency must both maintain many existing programs and implement new authorizations,” clarified the organizations. “The House-passed appropriations legislation for ONC would enact this cut; meanwhile the bill under consideration in the Senate would maintain current funding levels.”
AMIA and the Pew Charitable Trusts urged Congress to ensure ONC has the funds necessary to support the EHR reporting programs and its inclusion as part of new certification requirements to help improve EHR system design and usability in the future.
“Since EHRs are foundational to many other goals of the Cures Act, the timely development and implementation of these programs is paramount,” stated the organizations. “Given that ONC has indicated that it may not be able to implement the EHR reporting provisions from Cures if the President’s budget cut is enacted, we urge you to ensure that the agency has the resources it needs to establish the program and — when doing so — prioritize policies that enhance patient safety and care coordination.”
In November, AMIA submitted a letter to ONC requesting to federal agency update the 2015 Interoperability Roadmap, enhance health IT testing, and invest in improving health IT standards. These recommendations came in response to a request from ONC for stakeholder feedback to inform the 2018 Reference Edition of the Interoperability Standards Advisory (ISA).
Improving health data standardization and health IT testing – in addition to implementing the EHR reporting program – could assist in elevating EHR technology and health data exchange to the levels necessary to support value-based care.