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Feds to List New Transparency Information about Certified Health IT Products

June 2, 2016
by Rajiv Leventhal
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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) will be listing more detailed and easier-to-comprehend information on its website about implementing and using certified health IT products.

Indeed, via an upgraded website, purchasers of health IT can access information about prices and limitations they may encounter when implementing and using certified health IT products. The disclosure of this information is required by ONC’s recent 2015 Edition final rule, which includes several provisions to increase transparency and accountability in the health IT marketplace and to assist purchasers to better compare and select products that meet their needs.

Historically, the health IT landscape has lacked reliable information about the costs, limitations, and trade-offs of competing health IT products and services. This lack of transparency can make it hard to effectively compare and choose the right system; make it more likely for a user to encounter unexpected costs, implementation issues, and information blocking; and can limit incentives for developers to improve their products.

As such, under the transparency requirements in the ONC 2015 Edition final rule, certified health IT developers must publish mandatory disclosure statements on their websites and in other marketing materials explaining detailed, plain-language information about their products. These statements must include any limitations and types of costs that may be incurred by the user, usually a provider or provider’s office staff, according to HHS.

In addition, developers must attest that they will—or will not—take additional, voluntary actions to support transparency.  Nearly all developers who had signed the Interoperability Pledge announced earlier this year indicated their commitment to more transparency and accountability.

Nonetheless, according to a Politico Morning eHealth report on June 2, not all vendors are willing to play nice. Per the report, “But while most EHR vendors have joined the effort, there's a rump faction of 48 vendors who are listed as declining to support it, and some are open in their defiance. They claim the site is mostly window-dressing, since whether they join it or not their specs will be available on the ONC website anyway, just a Google search away for interested providers.” A spokeswoman from one major vendor, the Watertown, Mass.-based Athenahealth, called it "government-mandated gobbledegook," according to Politico.

This information, which will be posted on the upgraded certified health IT product list (CHPL) and a new website, HealthIT.gov/transparency, will provide a unified view of this and other information about the transparency and performance of certified health IT products. Additional information, including any corrective action plans for developers who do not comply with the new disclosure requirements, will be added to the site regularly, HHS officials said.

These new efforts to provide more and easier-to-understand information are critical to helping clinicians find the right tools to provide better care and improve the health of their patients,” Karen DeSalvo, M.D., National Coordinator for Health IT, said in a statement. “This information and our new websites will make the process of comparing and buying certified health IT simpler and better, discourage information blocking, and create clear incentives for developers to focus on the quality and usability of their products.”

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