Health care providers should find it easier to understand the IT they’re buying thanks to a new Department of Health and Human Services listing of certified products.
HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT began listing the information on a new transparency website and its certified health IT product list Wednesday.
The transparency requirements were issued as part of ONC’s 2015 Edition Certification Criteria Final Rule, ordering certified health IT developers to publish mandatory disclosure statements online and in other marketing materials with detailed, plain-language information about their products, specifically including any limitations or further costs that may be incurred.
If developers don’t adhere to this and other requirements in the final rule, they will not receive ONC certification, the agency’s stamp of approval that a product is good for use by federal, state and private medical programs.
The health IT industry lacked this kind of transparency prior to the requirements and these new listings, said Karen DeSalvo, national coordinator for health IT. The change should help providers choose technologies that meet the needs of their practices with better information about the costs, limitations and trade-offs of competing health IT products and services, she said.
“These new efforts to provide more and easier-to-understand information are critical to helping clinicians find the right tools to provide better care and improve the health of their patients,” DeSalvo said in a release.
“This information and our new websites will make the process of comparing and buying certified health IT simpler and better, discourage information blocking, and create clear incentives for developers to focus on the quality and usability of their products.”
Additionally, the 2015 requirements asked certified developers to attest if they’d voluntarily take further actions to support transparency. Nearly all developers said they would do so, which includes “engaging in an open dialogue about their business practices and making such information available to potential customers and others in more targeted and useful ways,” and providing “any requestor with the information disclosed about their products and service offerings,” according to an ONC blog post from Elise Sweeney Anthony, acting director of the Office of Policy, and Steve Posnack, director of the Office of Standards and Technology.
“I am thrilled that so many of our partners in the health IT developer community have reiterated their commitment to the work we are doing together to ensure that electronic health data flows seamlessly and securely where and when it is needed,” DeSalvo said.
ONC-Authorized Certification Bodies will surveil the disclosures and products to verify that developers are reporting accurate and compliant information. Developers who fail to meet the requirements will face corrective actions, the blog post says.
Over the past year, ONC has been on a campaign to stop health IT developers from information blocking, which the agency defines as “when persons or entities knowingly and unreasonably interfere with the exchange or use of electronic health information.”
The transparency in the new requirements and listings is crucial to ONC’s fight against this detrimental practice, said Jeff Coughlin, senior director of federal affairs at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, an international health IT advocacy group.
“ONC has put a really big emphasis over the past year or so … on the idea of information blocking and how to limit it,” Coughlin said. “This is just another step that they’re taking to ensure that there is transparency out there in terms of what providers and purchasers can expect from different products, and another step to emphasize model practices for health information exchange and eliminating information blocking.”
All in all, he said, “I think it’s a huge step in the right direction in terms of ensuring that all stakeholders are informed about certified products and what they should be able to do.”
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