ONC report examines feasibility of CEHRT comparison tools

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT recommends not one, but four different ways to assist providers in comparing and selecting certified electronic health record technology (CEHRT), in a newly published report to Congress on the feasibility of such mechanisms.

The report, required by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, notes that the majority of current tools either are commercial products available for a fee or those developed by professional organizations. However, according to ONC, they lack specific comparative information such as cost, usability and the quality of reporting capabilities. ONC's certified technology comparison task force previously had considered the creation of one tool that would compare EHR systems.

ONC acknowledges that "[t]here does not appear to be one single tool or strategy that can meet the needs of the entire healthcare community," adding that "a variety of resources are still needed." The agency also notes that providers in small, rural and under resourced practices may benefit the most from these resources.

The four mechanisms ONC recommends include:

  1. Provide targeted technical assistance, which would expand beyond primary care providers to non-physician providers, specialists, support staff and others.
  2. Improve awareness of the comparison tool marketplace, perhaps through a Web-based clearinghouse.
  3. Collect and share information on certified health IT. This could address gaps by making information more publicly available to improve the comparison tools themselves. It could include voluntary EHR vendor reporting or changing regulations to require the ONC Authorized Certification Bodies (ONC-ACBs) to capture data.
  4. Collaborate with stakeholders to develop comparison tools to better meet provider's needs. For instance, ONC could work with the community to solicit feedback and share best practices.

ONC also notes that it plans to update its Certified Health IT Products List (CHPL), called "open data" CHPL, later this spring. In the fall, it will publish an online "health IT playbook" with technical assistance resources.  

To learn more:
- read the report (.pdf)