Health IT again one of HHS' top management challenges

In its latest report, HHS’ Office of Inspector General (OIG) has yet again identified EHRs and health IT as one of the 10 biggest management and performance challenges facing HHS in the ensuing year.

RELATED: Medicare, cybersecurity, care quality, ACA exchanges among HHS' top challenges in 2017

The report, released last week, noted several concerns about the “information rich” environment as the country increasingly relies on health IT and electronic data exchange.

  • The privacy and security of information, especially at the quick pace at which technology is evolving, the expansion of the internet of things, such as networked medical devices and the rise of mobile health technology. The report cited the continued weaknesses in healthcare organizations’ systems despite the significant increase of breaches and ransomware attacks.
  • Improving the flow of complete, accurate and timely information. Barriers include the lack of interoperability, complex privacy and security laws, the high cost of health IT, information blocking, and lack of consumer confidence.

The OIG noted that HHS has made progress in dealing with issues but that more work needs to be done, including measuring the extent that EHRs and health IT have achieved HHS’ goals and providing more guidance to stakeholders.

Other top challenges for HHS include curbing the abuse and misuse of controlled and noncontrolled drugs in Medicare Part D and Medicaid, managing delivery system reform, and operating the health insurance exchanges.

Some of the challenges are different from in years past. For example, one of the top health IT challenges in 2014 was the dropout rate in the Meaningful Use program.

The OIG also acknowledged that handling these issues may be particularly challenging as the country passes the presidential baton.  

“In this presidential transition year, HHS must address these challenges while undertaking the additional important responsibility of conducting a well-orchestrated transition to new leadership. … The transition will require heightened focus on effective coordination across HHS operating divisions, continuity of operations, and emergency preparedness. This transition must be accomplished while maintaining and strengthening HHS's many complex programs and protecting and serving its beneficiaries,” the report states.