EHRs might be forced into interoperability, but it will take time

Electronic health records might actually be forced to enter the era of interoperability, but it’ll take time, a Forbes piece opines. The new, $1.1 trillion”cromnibus” spending bill that Obama signed this month says regulators must decertify EHRS that hinder device interoperability. The law apportions $60 million to help put this into action, stating that regulators “should take steps to […]

Electronic health records might actually be forced to enter the era of interoperability, but it’ll take time, a Forbes piece opines.

The new, $1.1 trillion”cromnibus” spending bill that Obama signed this month says regulators must decertify EHRS that hinder device interoperability. The law apportions $60 million to help put this into action, stating that regulators “should take steps to decertify products that proactively block the sharing of information.”

These practices of course “frustrate congressional intent” and “devalue taxpayer investments” in EHRs, the law says, making proper them “less valuable and more burdensome for eligible hospitals and eligible providers to use.

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Forbes writes:

I was thrilled when I originally saw this passage. On subsequent readings, my cynical side came out. It could be hard to demonstrate that a product “proactively” blocks data sharing. Who will the burden of proof fall on? Who will decide if a product should be decertified, ONC or one of the federally sanctioned certification bodies? Will vendors be able to appeal decertification rulings?

Basically, if a vendor loses certification on their EHR, the consumers are the ultimate losers. Because then, suddenly, they’ll become ineligible for meaningful use and subject to Medicare penalties, Forbes asserts:

They also would be faced with the choice of waiting for their vendor to re-work the EHR to be more interoperable or to replace the system with a competing product. Either way, it potentially could set back physician practices many months and hospitals a year or more while they implement an upgrade or an entirely new EHR. Just who will pay for the changes?

Regulators have until mid-March to alert Congress of the extent of the data sharing issues among vendors, Forbes says – as well as a plan to address the “technical, operational and financial barriers to interoperability.” Forbes concludes:

So, it could be a while before we know what everything means, perhaps years. There could be some lawsuits, too, from vendors that eventually do get decertified as well as from their customers that lose money as a result of decertification.

By the time everything gets sorted out, we might be on the verge of moving to Stage 3 of meaningful use, which is scheduled to start in 2017. While it seems like this move by Congress finally puts some heft behind EHR certification, lawmakers may have inadvertently unleashed more uncertainty.

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