ONC outlines 5-year plan to shift health IT certification testing tools to the private sector

Blue screen for health technology
The ONC will build private-sector certification tools into its portfolio over the next 5 years.

After investing in federally funded health IT testing tools for the last 8 years, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) announced plans to lean on industry-developed tools to ensure health IT systems are meeting standards for interoperability and data standardization.

The federal agency has been using a suite of taxpayer-funded tools developed in partnerships with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. But in an effort to better align with industry-led efforts, the ONC plans to transition much of that work to the private sector, Steve Posnack, director of the Office of Standards and Technology at ONC, wrote in a blog post last week.

“As we look toward the implementation of Title IV of the 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act), we have set a goal to transition the Program’s existing testing portfolio over the next five years to include as many industry-developed and maintained testing tools as possible in lieu of tax-payer financed testing tools,” he wrote. “Achieving this goal will enable the Program to more efficiently focus its testing resources and better align with industry-developed testing tools, which could help support the ‘real world testing’ envisioned by the Cures Act.”

RELATED: Health IT Now asks Price to rein in ONC's 'mission creep'

The move was supported by Health IT Now, which has advocated by health IT standards developed by the private sector. Under the proposed 2018 budget, ONC would be working with 37% less funding, forcing the agency to shift its priorities and eliminate several key programs.

“We should have been doing this all along,” Health IT Now Executive Director Joel White said in a statement. “We believe these reforms, supported by the 21st Century Cures Act, will improve interoperability by ensuring testing tools are developed by those who know what works in everyday industry practice. Further, this shift can eliminate waste by preventing ONC from duplicating what private sector entities can do more effectively.”

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