HHS begins listing new transparency information for certified health information technology

Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) began listing more detailed and easier-to-understand information about certified health information technology (health IT). Via an upgraded website, purchasers of health IT can access information about costs 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. 

“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,” said Karen DeSalvo, M.D., M.P.H., M.Sc., national coordinator for health information technology. “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.”

To achieve the full potential of their health IT, clinicians must be able to choose technologies and solutions that meet the needs of their practices—and the patients they serve. Unfortunately, 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.

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.

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.

“I am thrilled that so many of our partners in the health IT developer community have reiterated their commitment to the work we are doing together to ensure that electronic health data flows seamlessly and securely where and when it is needed,” said DeSalvo.

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.

Ensuring health data flows seamlessly and securely to create a learning, person-centered health system is a common theme of the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan, a joint effort among ONC and over 35 federal partners and the public that focuses federal offices that use or influence the use of health information technology on person-centered care, advancement of science and overall health.  Similarly, the Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap, a collaboration with the private sector, states, and federal partners, identifies the necessary near-term actions to advance an interoperable health system. In April, on behalf of the Secretary, ONC issued Report to Congress on the Feasibility of Mechanisms to Assist Providers in Comparing and Selecting Certified EHR Technology Products as required by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA), exploring ways to make the health IT market work better for clinicians.

Combined with other recent announcements, including the pledges made by private sector market leaders to make electronic health information flow better and challenge grants issued to spur innovation of market-ready, user-friendly apps for consumers and providers, these efforts all help to support the flow of health information when and where it is needed for patient care.

Read more about today’s announcement on the ONC Buzz Blog.

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