Deven McGraw, Project HealthDesign Regulatory and Assurance Advisory Group, Center for Democracy & Technology
A new year has started — year two of the incentive program to encourage the meaningful use of certified electronic health record technology to improve individual and population health. It’s a good time to get caught up on policy developments from the end of a very busy 2011 and provide an update on expected developments in early 2012.
On November 7, the Institute of Medicine issued a report and recommendations intended to assure the safety of EHRs. The report identifies some safety risks associated with EHRs and acknowledges the potential for safety benefits. The report also recommends the establishment of a new entity to investigate EHR safety risks and urges HHS to establish a mechanism for vendors and others to report safety-related incidents. In response to the report, ONC noted it is already in the process of developing an EHR safety and surveillance plan.
In December, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) announced that providers who started participating in the meaningful use incentive program in the first year (2011) will have an additional year (until 2014) before being required to meet the more robust meaningful use Stage 2 requirements. This change, which was initially recommended by the Health IT Policy Committee, is intended to give providers a longer period of time to adjust to and implement the earliest stage of meaningful use before being required to demonstrate more robust use and exchange of health information in Stage 2.
Speaking of meaningful use, the proposed meaningful use requirements for Stage 2 are still expected to be released early in 2012. In addition, the Health IT Policy Committee has begun discussions about requirements for Stage 3, and incorporation of patient-generated data into EHRs continues to be a priority.
ONC unveiled its consumer engagement program in September, and the office is continuing to roll out initiatives to promote consumers’ use of e-health tools to improve their health:
- Earlier this month, ONC announced the Healthy New Year video challenge intended to collect short (up to two minutes) videos from consumers sharing their new year’s resolutions for the use of e-health tools to improve their health or the health of their families. The deadline to submit a video is February 16, at 5 p.m. EST. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top videos.
- On December 6, the Office of the Surgeon General and ONC launched a Healthy Apps Challenge to encourage the development and submission of technology apps that tailor health information to the needs of the consumer user and empower the public to regularly engage in and enjoy health-promoting behaviors. The deadline for entry was December 31, 2011. Winners will be announced on January 31, 2012 and finalist apps will be featured on an HHS website.
ONC also has launched efforts to gather more information about consumer concerns about e-health privacy and security. Specifically, ONC is surveying consumers (and conducting focus groups) about attitudes and preferences regarding the communication of personal health information using mobile devices. In addition, ONC will conduct annual, nationwide surveys to assess the percentage of individuals who are concerned about the privacy and security of EHRs, who report having kept any part of their medical history from their doctors due to privacy concerns, and who are concerned that an unauthorized person would see their medical information if it is sent electronically, among other key measures. ONC will assess trends in consumer privacy and security views between 2012 and 2016 and intends to compile the results into a final report.
Stay tuned for further updates.