Health IT Now calls on Tom Price to review ONC’s role

Blue screen for health technology
In a letter to Tom Price, Health IT Now says ONC has overstepped its regulatory authority.

A health IT advocacy coalition is questioning whether the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has exceeded its authority, calling for the Department of Health and Human Services to reevaluate the agency’s role in EHR certification.

The ONC has “overstepped original authorities provided under the HITECH Act,” Robert Horne, executive director of Health IT Now, a coalition of healthcare payers, providers and IT vendors, wrote in a letter (PDF) addressed to HHS Secretary Tom Price. Horne raised specific concerns about the ONC’s approach to certifying EHRs for safety, arguing that approach opens vendors up to “duplicate regulatory oversight” from both the ONC and the Food and Drug Administration.

“It is worrisome that vendors are spending an increasing amount of time on conforming to certification requirements and in turn have less time to focus on the needs of their customers in meeting the needs of their patients,” Horne wrote, urging HHS to “clarify the role of ONC in the marketplace.”

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It’s not the first time Health IT Now has pushed to loosen regulatory burdens for the health IT industry. Earlier this month, Catherine Pugh, director of government affairs at the coalition, called on the Trump administration and Congress to address concerns regarding interoperability and patient matching, in addition to clarifying existing ONC regulations.

Last year, former National Coordinator for Health IT, Vindell Washington, said expanded EHR oversight falls within the ONC’s responsibilities.

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The letter added to last month's letter from 16 healthcare organizations, including the College of Healthcare Information Management, asking Price to delay Stage 3 Meaningful Use requirements "indefinitely."

Price, for his part, has been vocal about the need to scale back Meaningful Use requirements, while also acknowledging the role the federal government plays in fostering interoperability.