ONC 2017 Budget Focuses on EHR Interoperability, Transparency
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) has received a $22 million increase for its 2017 budget, helping the agency improve the nation’s health IT infrastructure and EHR interoperability.
According to the budget plans from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the overall budget for the ONC in 2017 will be $82 million. This will enable the agency to focus specifically on improving the health IT market.
“In FY 2017, ONC will focus on encouraging market transparency and competition, improving electronic health record usability, and offering technical assistance to providers to help them get the most out of their health IT,” the budget plan explains.
To do this, ONC has established four legislative proposals, including ones for IT governance, as well as information blocking.
The information blocking proposal would help develop a specific and collaborative approach for eliminating this practice. It would also help develop a method for identifying, investigating, and create repercussions for information blocking offenders.
The legislative proposals also include information about EHR and health IT transparency, allowing the secretary to require vendors to submit their certification standards into the agency to make available for consumers.
“This proposal would authorize the Secretary to require that certified health IT vendors submit ongoing and detailed information to the National Coordinator concerning the costs, capabilities, limitations, and other performance characteristics of certified health IT,” the budget plan says. “ONC will be able to address the lack of transparency in health IT products and services, which stakeholders ranging from industry associations to Congress have identified as a serious problem impairing the efficient functioning of health IT markets.”
In increasing interoperability and transparency in health IT, ONC also recognizes a need to create better safety standards, and includes it in its legislative proposal.
“Through this proposal, ONC will establish a Health IT Safety Collaborative that identifies and strengthens ways to encourage better reporting of health IT‐related safety events,” the budget plan reads. “This public‐private partnership will provide a confidential space for developers and providers to address concerns and cultivate new educational resources and training materials to build health IT safety competencies.”
The ONC’s work going into 2017 will also include implementing its Interoperability Roadmap. The roadmap set the course for the healthcare industry to eventually reach complete interoperability. In 2017, ONC will focus on sending, receiving, finding, and using priority data domains between systems. Specifically, the roadmap will cover:
- Improving technical standards and implementation guidance for priority data domains.
- Rapidly shifting and aligning federal, state, and commercial payment policies from fee-for-service to value-based models.
- Adopting and using a common interoperability code of conduct that addresses policies and business practices that are impeding interoperability.
In addition to working on interoperability, ONC will be continuing to develop standards for clinical care, research, clinical quality improvement, privacy and security, and population health management. These standards will reportedly be developed to help support value-based and alternative payment models that are starting to be implemented in the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA).
The HHS’ budget plan also quickly touched specifically upon EHRs, explaining that it will invest some of its budget into integrating behavioral and mental health providers into the EHR Incentive Programs. This will include psychiatric hospitals, community mental health centers, residential and outpatient mental health and substance abuse clinics, and psychologists.
“Adoption of interoperable electronic health records by these providers has lagged behind other providers that participated in the EHR incentive program,” the plan states. “Facilitating the adoption and meaningful use of electronic health records by the broader community of behavioral health providers will promote the sharing of clinical data needed to provide safe, timely, efficient, and effective patient‐centered care.”
In total, this will consume approximately $760 million in Medicare costs over a ten year span.