Accountable care organizations (ACOs) "represent one of the first real steps to building a new value-driven healthcare system," the HIMSS Electronic Health Record Association said in comments submitted this month to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on the ACO shared savings notice of proposed rulemaking.
However, the group, which represents 46 EHR vendors, said it agrees with concerns of many in the healthcare industry that the ACO shared savings proposed rule--as currently formulated--will "substantially limit initial participation" by restraining ACOs from investing in needed infrastructure, such as health IT.
Health information technology--through EHRs and health information exchanges--will be "critical" to the success of ACOs and to meeting the goals of practicing evidence-based medicine, care coordination, quality measurement, and patient centeredness, the group said.
The group added that it was pleased to see that CMS was encouraging "a largely non-prescriptive approach to health IT" that calls for locally appropriate decision-making by the ACOs-- with a primary focus on outcomes.
However, while still allowing for flexibility, the vendors said they believe that ACOs should be very strongly encouraged to implement EHR technology to meet their needs for robust core clinical systems--ideally with certified EHR technology.
The group also told CMS that it should encourage the use of health IT by all providers that are members of an ACO--and not just primary care providers--in order to advance healthy information exchanges and remove information silos that potentially compromise quality care.