Certified technology comparison task force outlines initial goals

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's new certified technology comparison task force met for the first time Nov. 17, to outline its work plan and goals for the upcoming months.

The 10-member task force will be "of limited duration but important," Mayo Clinic's Cris Ross, co-chairman of the task force, said at the meeting. The task force is charged with providing recommendations and the most feasible public/private approaches to create and maintain a tool that would enable providers and others to compare certified technology products. It also may examine providers' different health IT needs and how best to develop a tool.

The adoption and use of certified electronic health record systems currently varies widely by provider type, with hospitals the most likely to use one, and physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants lagging behind. Some comparison tools offered by the government and private entities exist and also will be reviewed.

The task force will hold two virtual meetings in January to hear from experts and submit recommendations to ONC's Health IT Policy and Standards Committees. The study and subsequent report is required by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, which tasks the secretary of the Health and Human Services Department with examining the feasibility of establishing mechanisms, such as a website, to help providers compare and select certified EHRs.

Quality Insights Director of Measure & Instrument Development and Support Anita Somplasky, who serves as co-chair of the task force, noted that in light of the "struggles" that providers have had with health IT, "this group can really make some great recommendations and make a difference."

Many providers have been stymied by the inability to effectively compare and determine which EHRs best meet their needs, and often end up with expensive products that are not as usable as they could and should be. Moreover, not all vendors take usability seriously; one study found that many had no reported user centered design process to develop their products, even though it is required as part of ONC's EHR certification process.

To learn more:
- access the meeting materials