Health IT stakeholders outline priorities for Trump administration

Blue screen for health technology

Photo credit: Getty/Pixtum

While uncertainty appears to be the predominant theme following Donald Trump’s election victory, health IT stakeholder groups already are making their priorities known regarding the incoming administration.

Robert Tennant

For instance, Robert Tennant, health information technology policy director with the Medical Group Management Association’s government affairs staff, tells FierceHealthIT that his organization plans to work closely with new leadership to try to educate it about the use of health IT to drive out needless administrative costs for providers.

“We are hopeful that any effort to repeal Obamacare would not repeal the administrative simplification provisions of the law,” Tennant says.

He adds that MGMA will be keeping a close eye on the Trump administration’s take on programs such as Meaningful Use and the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) within the Medicare Administrative and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA).

“Will [the new administration] move along the same pathway, or either tweak or end the [Meaningful Use] program in the sense certainly for hospitals and folks that are not part of MIPS and alternative payment models under MACRA?” Tennant says. “And what are they going to do with Meaningful Use and the whole area of the use of health IT for data reporting? It’s unlikely they’ll repeal MACRA, but there’s a lot of administrative latitude that they could employ. We’ll be working with the administration to ensure they understand our concerns regarding the current iteration of the programs.”

Where the rubber really meets the road, according to Tennant, is at the administrative level. MGMA, he says, will be watching carefully to see who is tapped to lead the Health and Human Services Department, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, to name a few agencies.

“Just by naming [officials], I think we’ll get a sense of what the priorities are,” Tennant says. “Is it somebody who is familiar with health IT in the role of National Coordinator or CMS administrator?”

Tom Leary

Tom Leary, vice president of government relations at HIMSS, tell FierceHealthIT that regardless of who Trump choose to fill positions in his administration, one issue he wants to ensure continues to move forward is the interoperability standards advisory.

“It was asked for by the healthcare community, and ONC and the community have really embraced the need for further refinement of which standards are used,” Leary says. “That exercise year over year has become a real meeting point between the community and the government.”

Leary anticipates funding for ONC, at least in the near term, to remain similar to its current levels to ensure that ongoing standards and certification work continues. ONC’s budget has remained relatively flat since its inception, receiving roughly $60 million annually.

Other priorities for HIMSS, according to Leary, include Trump’s stance on telehealth, particularly for veterans, the use of IT for infrastructure improvements and cybersecurity.

“Whether it’s the engagement with the healthcare community on some level of the [National Institute of Standards and Technology] cybersecurity framework, or elevating the chief information security officer at HHS to more of an internal and external engagement with stakeholders and increasing the number of cyberprofessionals in healthcare, that’s an area we anticipate approaching the new administration with,” he says.

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) also identifies cybersecurity as one of its top priorities, as well as data sharing.

“Threats are proliferating and becoming harder to detect,” CHIME President and CEO Russell Branzell says in a statement. “Additionally, we still confront a disjointed infrastructure that limits our ability to adequately exchange patient information.”

Jodi Daniel

Former ONC Policy Director Jodi Daniel, now a partner in law firm Crowell & Moring’s District of Columbia Office, does not anticipate a big shift on health IT policy resulting from the election’s outcome. Because the Trump administration presumably will be focused on efforts regarding the Affordable Care Act, she expects health IT to fly under the radar for a while, although, she thinks the status of some of the drivers of technology innovation, including payment reform initiatives, remain unknown.

“It will probably take months before a new national coordinator is named,” Daniel tells FierceHealthIT. “The career staff will likely keep the trains running and not make significant policy decisions during that window. I would not expect significant changes in policy right away unless Congress works health IT changes into ACA reform legislation.”

Still, when a new national coordinator is finally named, she believes he or she will have a different background than prior leaders at the agency.

“Given the state of play, it would be wise to select someone focused on the business of healthcare or technology innovation,” she says.

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