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Health IT should be priority for new administration

The balance of power has shifted in Washington, and much remains to be decided – such as the future of the Meaningful Use program, how federal agencies will regulate health IT, and the role that technology should play in delivering healthcare.

For far too long, taxpayer dollars have been spent on outdated technology and the federal government has not gone far enough to remove disincentives to data sharing — much to the detriment to patient safety and quality of care. Year after year, health policy experts end up discussing the same problems – most recently at the HIMSS17 Conference. This is not to diminish the progress that has been made — particularly in the adoption of EHRs in clinical practices — but there is much more we can accomplish. For example, we have not reached a point where patient data can flow freely and securely in order to better outcomes and lower costs.

There is great opportunity for reform with any new administration. Right now, senior leadership at federal agencies and in Congress is shaping healthcare priorities for the next four years. In our conversations, there were a number of policy barriers that HIMSS attendees believed it important for policymakers to address, including:

  • Interoperability. Last year, the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act was a major step forward in once and for all reaching widespread interoperability. The administration must work to implement these provisions swiftly and in a manner that takes into consideration the needs of all stakeholders. Additionally, we encourage the administration to take this opportunity to review the requirements of both the ONC Voluntary Certification Program and the Meaningful Use program to ensure they are fully supporting the shift to value-based care under the Quality Payment Programs.
  • Patient matching. The ability to match patients to their specific health information is of critical importance in advancing interoperability, care coordination, and better patient outcomes. Without a method of patient identification, duplicate tests and contraindicated treatments are more likely. Unfortunately, the federal government has not embraced — and even prevents — private market solutions. Congress should clearly call for the federal recognition of patient identification systems in order to improve patient safety, outcomes, and lower costs.
  • Regulatory clarity. Major confusion among developers and providers surround the role of ONC in the marketplace. Congress and the administration should take steps to clarify how the various federal agencies will regulate health IT and to what extent.
  • Real World Evidence. Real world evidence (RWE), or data gathered outside controlled clinical trials, can help speed the development of new treatments and cures. Spurred by the use of technology to analyze mass amounts of data at rapid speed, we’re only beginning to realize the potential in healthcare. The federal government should encourage and clarify the role of RWE in healthcare.

Health IT Now will be taking a number of steps over the next weeks and months to call attention to these priorities and many others that our members believe will allow for the full utilization of health IT to transform the healthcare system. We encourage all stakeholders to join us in this push to make health IT a priority in the new administration.

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