John Halamka: Charter organization to ensure interoperability doesn't make sense

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center CIO John Halamka, speaking out against a bill included in the 21st Century Cures Act that would result in the dissolution of the Health IT Standards Committee, offers up several ways to accelerate the interoperability of electronic health records in a recent blog post.

Halamka (pictured), who serves as co-chair of the of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's standards committee, says the bill's suggestion to work with a charter organization backed by $10 million to develop interoperability standards doesn't make sense, adding that the field currently working on such matters is "already crowded."

"Why not just direct ONC to create a permanent task force that reports to the HIT Standards Committee, and let ONC support it out of existing resources?" Halamka asks.

The bill calls for all electronic health records to meet those standards by Jan. 1, 2018, or face decertification by Jan. 1, 2019.

To accelerate interoperability, Halamka suggests the following:

  • Narrow the scope of Meaningful Use: Halamka calls for the program to sunset, saying that it "should be used to lay the foundation ecosystem." Instead, he says, value-based initiatives should be expanded.
  • Streamline ONC: The agency, he says, should pare down its current projects and focus on certification, safety, data transparency to support interoperability and alignment of other federal agencies for such efforts.
  • Improve privacy and security: In particular, Halamka calls for alignment between state policies and to "remove barriers to patient identity management."

He also calls for ONC to quickly fill the void that will be left by current National Coordinator Karen DeSalvo should she be confirmed as Assistant Secretary of Health. Earlier this month, President Barack Obama nominated DeSalvo for the permanent role, in which she has been serving in an acting capacity since last fall.

Markup of the 21st Century Cures Act, which was set to take place Wednesday morning, will occur Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced.

To learn more:
- read Halamka's post
- here's the link to view the markup

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