CHIME Letter Seeks Changes in Federal Health IT Strategic Plan

On Monday, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives submitted a comment letter to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT supporting the goals of the proposed five-year health IT strategic plan but seeking several refinements, HealthLeaders Media reports.

The letter was sent to National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari in response to a draft update to the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan: 2011-2015 (Tocknell, HealthLeaders Media, 4/19).

About the Strategic Plan

HHS first created the strategic plan in June 2008. The 2009 economic stimulus package tasked ONC with updating that plan (iHealthBeat, 3/25).

The updated strategic plan calls for policymakers to:

  • Achieve rapid learning and technological advancement through health IT;
  • Empower individuals to use health IT to improve their health and the health care system;
  • Inspire confidence and trust in health IT systems;
  • Promote health IT adoption and information exchange; and
  • Use health IT to improve population health and reduce health care costs (iHealthBeat, 3/30).

Patient Privacy Concerns

The CHIME letter states that the strategic plan does not go far enough to define how patient consent and privacy issues would be handled during exchanges of health information. Consent management policies should "address the responsibility of patients, physicians, hospitals and insurers on how consent will be stored and transmitted through health information exchanges," according to the letter.

CHIME said HHS should create national privacy regulatory standards that would apply to all health data exchanges (Lipowicz, Federal Computer Week, 4/18).

Meaningful Use Issue

CHIME also said that moving to Stage 2 meaningful use objectives before 30% of eligible hospitals and eligible professionals have achieved Stage 1 could negatively affect health IT adoption (Conn, Modern Healthcare, 4/18).

The letter states that such a change "would strike the right balance between the desire to push EHR adoption and [meaningful use] as quickly as possible and the recognition that unreasonable expectations could end up discouraging EHR adoption if providers conclude that it will be essentially impossible for them to qualify for incentives."

Under the 2009 federal economic stimulus package, health care providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHRs can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments (Miliard, Healthcare IT News, 4/18).

Additional CHIME Comments

The letter also calls for:

  • Greater compatibility among HHS regulations -- such as rules in the meaningful use program and HIPAA -- that affect patient access to data;
  • Caution against "expecting EHRs to do too much, too fast" (HealthLeaders Media, 4/19); and
  • Further study of EHR usability, clinical decision support, health information exchange and telehealth tools (Healthcare IT News, 4/18).

ONC Extends Comment Deadline

ONC has extended the comment period on the draft strategic plan until May 6 (CMIO, 4/18).

ONC originally had announced it would accept public comments through April 22 (iHealthBeat, 3/30).

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