ONC: Decertification of info blockers must be 'judicious'

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has shed some light on its position on the decertification of electronic health records that engage in "information blocking," noting that decertification is on the table and that it's looking hard at all of the implications of taking more aggressive action.

ONC policy analyst Karson Mahler, speaking at the Health IT Standards Committee implementation, certification and testing work group's meeting on Jan. 15, said the agency is working on Congress' request for a report on the problem of vendors and providers that block information, as well as creating a strategy on how to address the issue. 

ONC has reached out to stakeholders and grantees and is looking at the problem in a "deliberate and systematic way," Mahler said. He also pointed out that ONC is very concerned about how decertification of an EHR product could affect providers, noting that decertification is a blunt tool that can have significant collateral effects and should be used "judiciously."

Congress requested the report as part of the 2015 omnibus appropriations bill passed in December. ONC plans to submit the report to Congress in March. The bill additionally urged ONC to use its authority to certify only products that meet current Meaningful Use program standards and don't block health information exchange.

In addition, Congress wants decertification of products that block the sharing of information because those practices "frustrate congressional intent, devalue taxpayer investments in CEHRT and make CEHRT less valuable and more burdensome for eligible hospitals and eligible providers to use."

Congress also directed the Health IT Policy Committee to submit a report by December 2015 on challenges and barriers to interoperability and the role of certification in advancing or hampering data sharing.

Congress increasingly has expressed frustration with the lack of interoperability among EHRs, and most recently has asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate the effectiveness of health information exchanges. EHR decertification has been rare, but can have enormous ramifications on providers left owning those systems.

To learn more:
- access the meeting materials