Home > EHR, meaningful use, Medicare > ONC to Limit HIT Policy Committee Members’ Service

ONC to Limit HIT Policy Committee Members’ Service

The Office of the National Coordinator for HIT (ONC) announced during yesterday’s monthly meeting of the HIT Policy Committee (HITPC) that membership on that federal advisory committee will be limited to six years. While the establishing language in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 limited HITPC members’ term lengths to three years, it did not mandate a hard cap of two consecutive terms.

This announcement is significant because the HITPC’s advisory efforts have played a key role in setting the priorities of ONC and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services when it comes to the EHR Incentive Program (or “meaningful use”). Up until this point, it has been very challenging for physician stakeholders to get adequate consideration of the HITPC and its various workgroups. The common criticism is that the HITPC is “open to public comments, but not to different ideas.”

Historically, the expired terms of HITPC members were automatically renewed by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and ONC without formal notice or an opportunity for nominations from the public. The GAO and ONC only published formal calls for HITPC nominations when members resigned from the committee. This practice of automatic term renewal without public notice, while not uncommon for federal advisory committees with consecutive term caps, is arguably not aligned with the spirit of the Federal Advisory Committee Act or general government transparency.

To its credit, ONC instituted an informal self-application process for some of the workgroups and task forces under the full HITPC and HIT Standards Committee a couple years ago. However, the most important workgroups have usually been closely guided by the lead members of the full committees, resulting in a continuity of advice since 2009 that has largely been deaf to external criticisms of the EHR Incentive Program.

With a rolling membership, as was seemingly intended (but not required) by the Recovery Act’s staggering of HITPC member terms, the advisory committee’s culture now has the opportunity to evolve in the best interests of stakeholders. ONC staff and leaders should be applauded for this much needed change in direction.

Categories: EHR, meaningful use, Medicare

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