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Five Senators Rail on HITECH Progress; ONC's Interoperability Roadmap

March 5, 2015
by Gabriel Perna
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Five Republican Senators wrote a blog this week, railing on the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) for the lack of interoperable, usable electronic health records (EHRs) derived from the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act.
In a blog post on Health Affairs, titled "Where is HITECH's $35 Billion Investment Going," Senators John Thune (R-S.D.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) wrote how the goals of HITECH are still a safe distance away. The Senators, who told ONC two years ago that the program needed to be rebooted, said their concerns still remain. They cited surveys from physicians about EHRs not being usable and noted how despite $28 billion of the $35 billion has been spent, progress toward interoperability has been elusive. They were also not impressed with the ONC's Interoperability Roadmap as way to achieve interoperability. 
"It is not enough for ONC to identify factors it believes are important. It must also delineate how it will find specific solutions to these concerns," the Senators wrote in their blog. They consider the interoperability roadmap, released in late January, misses actionable steps to ensure a return on the HITECH investment. It says there are no concrete long-term and immediate steps outlined in the roadmap and considers it to speak in "generalities." 
Interestingly, the Senators push much of the blame on previous ONC leadership, which they say did not "understand the difficulty and enormity of creating government-approved products in a market that struggled to exist before government incentives arrived." They credit Karen DeSalvo, M.D. ONC's current top official, for better listening to the industry. 

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