ONC issues new EHR contracting guide for providers

Employment contract

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has unveiled a new tool to help providers better understand electronic health record contracts so they can negotiate more equitable terms with vendors.

The guide is geared toward helping providers navigate the sometimes “daunting” process of selecting a new or replacement EHR. Released as part of the kickoff of National Health IT Week, the advice given focuses on the acquisition of EHRs, although it can apply to other health IT products. It is designed to help buyers better understand and communicate their requirements to potential vendors, negotiate contract terms and consider and manage risks that may arise in buying and using an EHR.

Topics covered include:

  • The importance of planning
  • Standard form contracts
  • Negotiation strategies
  • Sample contract language
  • Safety and security
  • System performance
  • Managing the data
  • Fostering interoperability and integration
  • Intellectual property issues
  • Resolving disagreements with vendors
  • Legal rights and obligations to include and possibly avoid

In a related blog post, Andy Slavitt, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and National Coordinator for Health IT Vindell Washington noted that the guide is intended to help providers make sure that EHR contract terms don’t inhibit the utility of EHR technologies by data blocking and other challenges.

“In today’s EHR marketplace, many vendors use 'standard form' contracts when offering their products and services," Slavitt and Washington said. "Providers all too often agree to these contracts--which are prepared from the vendor’s perspective--without fully understanding the 'fine print' or without negotiating rights and obligations that can ensure that the technology will meet their needs and expectations. The new guide will equip providers [and their advisors] to ask the right questions when selecting an EHR and better communicate their requirements to potential vendors, all while managing the expectations of both vendors and providers and providing a framework for negotiating reasonable contract terms that reflect best practice contracting principles."

ONC last released an EHR contract tool in 2013.