NCPA to ONC: Step back from health IT control

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's role in the industry, as contemplated in its updated 2015-2020 strategic plan, is too broad and should be significantly reduced, according to the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA).

The strategic plan, released in December, includes five updated goals, such as expanding the adoption of health IT and increasing interoperability among EHRs. In a recent commentary, John Graham, a senior fellow at NCPA, said the organization has no problem with the goals in the plan, but that the government has already exerted too much control over the evolution of health IT and needs to take a step back.   

"The attempt to get medical providers to adopt EHRs has proven expensive, unproductive and potentially harmful, leading to the conclusion that the federal government should play a minimal role in guiding HIT over the next decade," Graham wrote.

He specifically pointed to the fact that the Meaningful Use program and incentives may have lowered the quality of care. The current program also is flawed, he said, because EHRs hurt providers' productivity and don't provide for data sharing. Graham also noted that the program is not meeting its EHR adoption targets, that physicians are dropping out and that many providers have received payments but have not fulfilled their obligations.

He recommended that the government step aside to let health IT evolve in the same manner as smartphones, which use application programming interfaces (APIs)--without certification or government incentives.

"The flood of government money into an emerging EHR landscape perverted the natural adoption of EHRs and has led to an installed base of EHRs that are not as effective as they would have been had the government not interfered," Graham said. "As HIT expands in unpredictable directions, the federal government should exert a humble and light regulatory touch; and refrain from the temptation to spend more money to encourage the types of technologies preferred by the government, instead of patients and providers."

Others also have commented on the strategic plan, calling for more details and at least one echoing the need for APIs.

To learn more:
- read the commentary