ONC, FTC commit to collaborate to strengthen health IT competition

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and the Federal Trade Commission plan to work together to promote competition in the health IT marketplace, the two agencies have revealed.

In companion blog posts published Tuesday by the respective agencies, officials outline takeaways from a workshop held last spring by the FTC on competition and its impact on marketplace growth and interoperability.

"At the workshop, we heard plenty of reasons to be encouraged about the ways that competition is working to deliver interoperable systems and services," ONC Policy Office Director Jodi Daniel and policy analyst Karson Mahler said in a Health IT Buzz post. ONC, in a vision paper published in June, said it believes participation from multiple stakeholders--including patients, providers and vendors--will be necessary to achieve interoperability to the point of creating a "continuous learning" environment for care.

"Despite success, however," Daniel and Mahler continued, "a clear takeaway from the FTC workshop was that health IT markets are not functioning as efficiently as they could be."

For instance, they said, transparency for health IT products is lacking. Additionally, while interoperability efforts are growing, a lack of "widely adopted industry standards" impedes more robust growth to parallel payment reform, they said.

In the FTC post, Tara Isa Koslov, deputy director of the office of Policy Planning at the agency; Markus Meier, assistant director of the healthcare division of FTC's Bureau of Competition; and David Schmidt, assistant director of applied research and outreach with FTC, said they are working with ONC to identify possible competition issues.

"In return, we are benefiting from ONC's expertise and industry knowledge as we learn more about how health IT markets operate, which health IT features are desired by providers and patients, and what types of conduct may benefit or harm health IT competition and innovation," they said.

At a congressional hearing in July, members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform questioned the health data and cybersecurity authority of the FTC. Similarly, federal legislators have questioned the regulatory authority of ONC.

To learn more:
- here's the ONC post
- read the FTC post