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ONC Posts Health IT Policies for Improved Accountable Care

ONC's state health IT policy compendium will help states see how others leverage healthcare programs to improve health IT use and accountable care.

By Sara Heath

- The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) has released a full document containing health IT policy levers on its website, giving various healthcare professionals access to different ways states leverage health IT to increase accountable care.

health IT interoperability accountable care

The document, entitled the State Health IT Policy Levers Compendium, reportedly lists nearly 300 different health IT policy levers and explains how states are able to use them to advance the use of health IT, interoperability, and system delivery reform.

For example, the document starts off by discussing how accountable care organizations (ACOs) can work to leverage different health IT policies. ACO payers such as Medicare or Medicaid within different states can require participants to use an interoperable EHR or participate in a health information exchange (HIE).

State entities contracting with providers for participation in an accountable care arrangement can align provider requirements with activities supporting interoperability. For instance, providers may be required to demonstrate they have adopted interoperable health IT or are participating in a health information exchange service in order to participate in the arrangement. Providers who can demonstrate adoption of interoperable health IT could also be provided with opportunities to earn greater rewards/access to shared savings under the terms of the arrangement.

These policy levers work by incentivizing different health IT capabilities. When the states implement certain health IT requirements, or create rewards for using different capabilities, they support the impactful adoption of health IT. All in all, this can help advance the triple aim of healthcare for better care, better spending, and better patient health.

“A health IT policy lever can be defined as any form of incentive, penalty, or mandate used to effectuate change in support of health IT adoption, use, or interoperability,” ONC writes in a Compendium overview. “This tool will help advance the country toward a delivery system with better care, smarter spending, and healthier people.”

The Compendium lists several different healthcare programs that can leverage health IT, and shows that many of them can help advance interoperability. For example, state appropriated funds can be focused on statewide HIE programs, or state lab requirements can include provisions regarding interoperability.

Some of the initiatives can also be leveraged to improve quality care and patient safety. State insurance commissioner policies can be focused on care quality through meaningful adoption of interoperable health systems. Additionally, state privacy and security policies can include provisions that “allow for more computable privacy while ensuring appropriate data is protected and shared.”

In addition to describing different potential policy levers, ONC lists the different states that have already embraced such levers. For example, when describing the state privacy and security policies, ONC reports that 16 states have already adopted that lever, including Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin.

The compendium also has several limits. In lacking a full examination of how these different policy levers have worked for the states, the compendium is limited in giving a truly meaningful list of policy suggestions. Additionally, ONC acknowledges that its data sources are limited, and that state policymakers should consult other data sources in order to get a full view of how different policy levers would work to better their health IT use.

In all, the ONC hopes to continue to build on this document as the varied uses of health IT continues to grow. This will help ensure that states adjust their policies with each change that the industry sees.

“ONC expects to maintain the Compendium via periodic updates,” ONC writes in its document overview. “This initial launch will serve as a foundation upon which ONC will work with states to update and refine the information in the tool. It will also allow ONC to make improvements to the structure and possibly the format of the Compendium.”

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