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Archive for February, 2016

ONC Announces “ONC Tech Lab” Program and Interoperability Proving Ground

February 24, 2016 Leave a comment

Yesterday, the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) announced the establishment of the “ONC Tech Lab,” a program comprised of various efforts and projects under the ONC’s Office of Standards and Technology. The activities under the new label have been organized into four categories:

  • Standards Coordination: Work with standards development organizations and industry to fine tune standards and identify needs.
  • Testing and Utilities: Development and compilation of functionality test tools, validators, etc.
  • Pilots: Implementation pilots supporting standards, particularly from the annual Interoperability Standards Advisory.
  • Innovation: Supporting start-ups, “Challenge” grant competitions, etc.

Today, ONC launched the “Interoperability Proving Ground (IPG)” under the aforementioned “Pilots” category. The IPG appears to be a dynamic catalog of research projects testing exchange/connectivity-oriented standards/services that have been shared by the IPG user community. The shared projects can be tagged for related standards and keywords (e.g., FHIR, C-CDA, etc.). The first IPG listings are mostly ONC-supported projects; however, ONC is encouraging anyone and everyone to share their interoperability projects on the site.

Given the pre-HIMSS 2016 timing of these announcements, one should expect the ONC Tech Lab and its various subcomponents to be a major focus of ONC speakers at the show. Another focus should be the imminent proposed rule to enhance the oversight and accountability of the ONC’s health IT certification program—but only if that proposed rule can somehow make it to the Public Inspection Desk in time for the conference. The proposed rule was submitted for review on January 25 and is still with the Office of Management and Budget as of this writing—obviously, the window for getting it public before (or during) HIMSS 2016 is shrinking.

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Categories: EHR, research

CMS to Fix Meaningful Use Attestation System Issue on February 21

February 18, 2016 Leave a comment

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced today that the system error preventing EHR Incentive Program participants from selecting the exclusion from measure 1 of objective 8, “patient electronic access,” during attestation will be corrected on February 21. Therefore, any participants who were planning on using the “neither orders nor creates” exclusion from both measures of objective 8 should wait until February 22 or later before using the online attestation system to demonstrate CY 2015 compliance with Meaningful Use (MU).

Note that CMS also recently delayed the MU attestation deadline for CY 2015 reporting periods until 11:59PM (Eastern) on March 11.

Categories: EHR, meaningful use, Medicare

Public Service Announcement: CMS Working on Meaningful Use Attestation System Issue

February 11, 2016 1 comment

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) staff are aware of the problem in which EHR Incentive Program participants are unable to select the appropriate exclusion from measure 1 of objective 8, “patient electronic access.” The agency is working to identify a potential solution by either correcting the attestation system or addressing the issue retrospectively. CMS and ACR will release information for program participants when a solution is identified.

In the meantime, any EHR Incentive Program participants who plan to use the available exclusion (for “neither orders nor creates”) from measure 1 of objective 8 should delay their attestations for CY 2015 reporting periods until a fix or workaround is announced in the very near future.

Again, this only impacts program participants who plan to use the appropriate exclusion from measure 1, objective 8.  All other program participants should proceed with their attestations as planned.

Categories: EHR, meaningful use, Medicare

Senate HELP Committee Prepares to Advance Health IT/Interoperability Legislation

February 4, 2016 Leave a comment

The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) is preparing to markup health IT/interoperability legislation on February 9 based on their recent discussion draft. The draft bill incorporated language from the Transparent Ratings on Usability and Security to Transform Information Technology (TRUST IT) Act, including the information blocking prohibitions supported by the American College of Radiology (ACR). The ACR submitted comments on January 29.

The committee’s discussion draft revised TRUST IT’s definition of “information blocking” to create two distinct categories based on entity type – one for developers/vendors/HIE networks, and one for providers (e.g., hospitals and health systems). Developers would be held accountable for essentially the same behaviors covered by the earlier TRUST IT Act (including blocking via ignorance/disregard), and providers would be held accountable for only “knowingly and unreasonably restricting” information exchange. HHS, through rulemaking, would identify reasonable and necessary actions by developers that are not information blocking, as well as a set of specified actions that are information blocking by providers.

The draft legislation also mandates different penalties based on entity type. Developers/vendors/exchange networks that engage in information blocking would receive civil monetary penalties in an amount determined to be a sufficient deterrent by HHS. Providers would be subject to a “sufficient deterrent”—but not specifically fines—under HHS’ existing authority. A “sufficient deterrent” could potentially mean consideration and penalization through the existing incentive programs for information-blocking actions, or it could mean something else within HHS’ current authority.

ACR’s comments to the committee reaffirmed the College’s support for the earlier TRUST IT version of the information blocking prohibition, which held hospitals and health systems accountable for blocking resulting from ignorance and reckless disregard, and penalized such entities for each blocking infraction by up to $10,000. That said, the committee’s legislation will be viewed as the evolved state of play moving forward, and reverting to the TRUST IT language is exceedingly unlikely. While the details of the TRUST IT Act language are preferable, ACR is generally supportive of the committee’s efforts to address information blocking in some manner, and will continue to work with policymakers to proliferate interoperability and exchange.

Categories: EHR, meaningful use, Medicare