Electronic Health Records

Integration & Interoperability News

ONC 2015 Edition Health IT Rule Aims at Interoperability

By Sara Heath

To enhance EHR interoperability and health information exchange (HIE), the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) released its 2015 Edition Health IT Certification Criteria.

According to an Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) press release, the rule builds upon past rules, making a special emphasis on the seamless transfer of health information from one system to another. The 2015 Edition health IT certification rule also takes into account comments made following the March release of the proposed rule.

According to an ONC final certification rule fact sheet, the rule also calls for more extensive testing for HIE systems, allowing for more reliability in reporting.

“[T]he final rule enhances the ONC Health IT Certification Program by including provisions for more rigorous testing of health IT exchange capabilities, establishing explicit requirements for in-the-field surveillance and transparency of health IT, and by making granular information about certified health IT publicly available through an open data certified health IT product list (CHPL),” the federal agency maintained.

The rule uses various strategies to improve interoperability and the transparency of health IT. To improve interoperability, ONC states that the certification rule will establish a mandatory standard for HIE as well as an updated data export facilitating better access and exchange of information.

The new certification rules also updates ONC programs to be more accessible to different kinds of health data regarding various types of care, practice facilities, and HHS programs. Furthermore, the rule will account for more specific data capture of gender, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, social, physiological, and behavioral information, thus closing gaps in healthcare delivery.

Another major component to the certification rule is increased transparency of health IT systems. ONC’s rule is expected to improve IT security, and enhance patient matching processes. Furthermore, the certification rule increases transparency regarding the actual products used in collecting health information.

According to the HHS, developers can begin updating health IT products for the new certification rules. Additionally, any EHRs under consideration for the EHR incentive programs will take into account these new certification rules.

“Developers can now begin developing health IT products, including EHRs, which they intend to have certified to the 2015 Edition certification criteria requirements. Any modifications that CMS considers for the EHR Incentive Programs or MIPS would be proposed in future rulemaking and would take into account the certification criteria,” HHS stated.

ONC officials state that implementation of this certification rule is important for allowing providers the maximum amount of secure data sharing to improve overall patient care.

“This rule is a key step forward in our work with the private sector to realize the shared goal of making actionable electronic health information available when and where it matters,” National Coordinator Karen B. DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSc, said in a public statement. “It will bring us closer to a world in which health care providers and consumers can readily, safely and securely exchange electronic health information.”

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