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Washington Debrief: Patient Safety Focused ONC Workgroup Formed

February 26, 2013
by Jeff Smith, Assistant Director of Advocacy at CHIME
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Jeff Smith, Assistant Director of Advocacy at CHIME

New ONC Workgroup to Focus on Patient Safety, Health IT Regulatory Framework The Office of the National Coordinator announced the creation of a new workgroup, under the direction of the Health IT Policy Committee, which will focus on issues related to the Food and Drug Administration Safety Innovation Act.  Better known as FDASIA, the Food and Drug Administration Safety Innovation Act charged the executive branch to issue a report that describes “a proposed strategy and recommendations on an appropriate, risk-based regulatory framework pertaining to health information technology including mobile medical applications, which promotes innovation, protects patient safety, and avoids regulatory duplication.” ONC said this newly formed FDASIA Workgroup would build on previous patient safety initiatives and plans developed across HHS and elsewhere within the federal government, including work undertaken by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), FDA, Federal Communications Commission and ONC.

“Specifically the three agencies will seek input on issues relevant to the report, which include:

  •  Types of risk that may be posed by health IT that impact patient safety, the likelihood that these risks will be realized, and the impact of these considerations on a risk-based approach;
  •   Factors or approaches that could be included in a risk-based regulatory approach for health IT to promote innovation and protect patient safety; and
  •   Approaches to avoid duplicative or overlapping regulatory requirements.”

This is the second newly formed workgroup since the beginning of the year.  Interested parties are asked to register at ONC’s Workgroup Application Database.

New Meaningful Use Tools Released by CMS, ONC Eligible hospitals and eligible physicians have two new educational resources at their disposal, according to announcements by CMS and ONC this week.  In a statement, ONC officials said, “Reflecting our continued commitment to expand the Stage 2 / 2014 Edition meaningful use education portfolio beyond webinars and speaking events, today ONC is launching a a brand new self-paced education module on the "transitions of care" interoperability criteria. ONC and CMS staff created the module in response to stakeholder questions about the objective’s measurement requirements and valid certification approaches.  The education module covers "transitions of care" from both a meaningful use and EHR technology certification perspective.

Not to be outdone, CMS announced a new web resource for eligible professionals called, My EHR Participation Timeline to help EPs determine what year they will meet Stage 1, Stage 2, and Stage 3 of meaningful use in the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs. It also provides information on:

  •  The length of time EPs are required to demonstrate meaningful use at each stage;
  •  The maximum incentive payment you can receive each year;
  •  The total incentive payment amount you will receive based on your initial year of participation; and,
  •   Links to helpful resources from the CMS website.

Details can be found here.

As Sequestion Looms Budget Gurus Eye Healthcare Cuts According to two well-known and respected budgeteers, healthcare spending by the government needs to shed more than $600 billion from its budget over the next ten years.  Former Republic Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming and former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles joined forces again to update recommendations meant to address the nation’s deficit problem.  “Bowles-Simpson Take Two” would take a multiple-pronged approach to cutting healthcare spending that includes additional tightening of budgetary caps on discretionary spending, new taxes on health benefits and overhauls to civilian and military health programs in the federal government.  “It’s more health care than the Democrats would like and more revenue than Republicans would like and more revenue than Republicans support,” Sen. Simpson and Mr. Bowles said. “But in our view it is the minimum size necessary to put the debt on a clear downward path.”  Observers note that further cuts to discretionary spending would fall hardest on the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which has the job of implementing the 2010 health care law.  A copy of the report, “A Bipartisan Path Forward to Securing America’s Future,” is available here.