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D.C. Report: Multiple HIE-related reports released, Concern Over Late FDA Regulation

February 14, 2012
by Jeff Smith, Assistant Director of Advocacy at CHIME
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Much Ado About HIE This week was official health information exchange week in Washington.  Not really, but the Brookings Institution and the eHealth Initiative both released broad-based reports regarding the state of health information exchange in the US healthcare system.

In a briefing held at the Brookings Institution in Washington, officials from ONC and AHRQ joined experts from the Bipartisan Policy Center and the MITRE Corporation to discuss the barriers and opportunities of HIE.  During Wednesday’s event, Brookings released a report (.pdf), “Health Information Exchanges and Megachange,” which looked at five state exchanges through a rubric of variables.  “State health information exchanges have made progress in establishing organizational frameworks, building technology-based connections, and bringing relevant groups to the table for discussion,” the report noted.  “However, barriers remain in terms of governance, financing, and policy vision.”  ONC Director of the State HIE program, Claudia Williams was on hand for the event, calling 2012 a year of action.  “We want to see exchanges take off this year,” she said, acknowledging that the landscape for HIE is “not in great shape,” citing the small numbers of hospitals who use electronic discharge summaries.  The states covered in the report include California, Tennessee, New York, Massachusetts and Indiana.

And for its part, eHI generated an Issue Brief this week titled, “How the HITECH Act is Helping Generate Jobs in Health Information Technology.”  The report was based off a workforce supplement to its 2011 survey of 255 HIEs and it found that “there is a large, unmet need for HIE employees.”  The survey indicated that over 25 percent of respondents reported a shortage of staff with IT experience and that 62 percent planned to hire consultants to fill those caps.  Interestingly, only three of the 196 respondents said they had hired from ONC’s Workforce Development Program and only 15 percent said they had plans to hire from the ONC program.  “It is clear that organizations are not seeing qualified candidates for these positions,” the report concluded.  To address this, eHI recommended that ONC work more closely to identify skills sought by HIEs; that ONC encourage HIEs to develop training or internship programs with the workforce programs; and finally that ONC increase the visibility of their workforce program so that HIEs are aware of the types of positions graduates can fill.

Growing Concern over Tardy FDA Regulation A unique device identifier regulation, first approved by Congress five years ago, has been sitting at the Office of Management Budget since July 2011.  And now Congress wants to know why.  In a letter sent to the OMB, Sens. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) are asking acting director Jeffery Zients to provide “a current comprehensive status report on the UDI rule at OMB.”  “Due to our strong desire for a robust post-market environment, we are very concerned with the delayed implementation of the UDI,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter (.pdf).  As pointed out by Modern Healthcare clues to the delay may be found in a Government Accountability Office report, which identified a number of questions related to different labeling requirements for devices and whether hospitals have installed automated inventory systems needed to support UDIs.

CMS Endorses ASC X12 Decision to Back of 6010 Standards CMS’s ICD-10 campaign, “It’s closer than it seems,” is in full swing.  And late Friday afternoon, CMS issued a response supporting the recent decision by the Accredited Standards Committee X12 to abandon Version 6020 for consideration as the next version of the HIPAA standard.  “CMS supports ASC X12's caution,” the news update said, “The 6020 version will still serve as the basis for the next version, but industry will have much needed time to determine changes that are needed.”

For more information, visit CMS’s ICD-10 website and pay special attention to the ICD-10 widget on display.

State Advocacy Days in Full Swing State legislatures across the country are back in session, and one way to tell is by the growing number of health IT advocacy days taking place.  Already this year, CHIME has co-sponsored or participated with HIMSS Chapter partners in three HIT Advocacy Days:  Virginia, Kentucky and Maryland.  Earlier this week, the Maryland HIMSS chapter held its 5th Annual HIT Day in Annapolis.  Maryland’s Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, and ONC’s Claudia Williams were both in attendance.  Meanwhile, HIT leaders from the state HIE – known as CRISP, Anne Arundel Medical Center, the University of Maryland and MedStar Health discussed patient portal technologies, health information exchange and telemedicine services in the state.  Capping off the day’s programs was a proclamation from Governor Martin O’Malley declaring February 7, 2012 Maryland HIMSS HIT Day.