Blumenthal: Stage 2 meaningful use on track
As concerns about the preliminary Stage 2 meaningful use criteria mount and the search for his replacement continues, David Blumenthal, MD, remains steadfast in the direction and focus of the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC).
“We’re on track for meaningful use Stage 2,” said the outgoing national coordinator for health IT.
The ONC Health IT Policy Committee’s working groups are actively looking at recommendations for Stage 2. Referring to recent objections by several professional organizations that the preliminary criteria are too aggressive, Blumenthal said, that "having these comments is very helpful and is part of the process; it shows our commitment to continued openness and transparency and making sure that we listen to all points of view.”
[See also: CCHIT poll shows Stage 2 and 3 qualms.]
Blumenthal stressed that, despite the changeover in leadership at the ONC, the policies regarding health IT adoption are Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ and President Barack Obama’s policies. He emphasized that Sebelius and Obama remain “completely committed to the HITECH agenda” and have “every intention of continuing the current set of policies.”
One of ONC’s current projects touches on the conclusions of a Health Affairs article, published Wednesday, regarding the benefits of health IT. The article highlighted dissatisfaction with electronic health records (EHRs) among some providers, which impact the ability to achieve health IT’s potential, and therefore the need for studies to document specific challenges and potential solutions to health IT adoption.
[See also: New survey shows EHRs benefit even small providers.]
Blumenthal pointed out that accessibility and usability of the technology are key. “We believe we have to do everything within our authority to make sure that EHRs and other technologies that we certified and for which we set standards are as user-friendly as possible,” he said.
ONC is actively working with scientific agencies – the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) – and the National Center for Cognitive Informatics and Decision Making in Healthcare at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston – to develop valid and reliable tests for EHR usability. Once the tests are thoroughly vetted and evaluated by all relevant stakeholders, they will be publicly available for providers and consumers of the technology to make informed choices, he said.
ONC and NIST are currently collaborating on projects, with planning scheduled for the spring and into the summer and hearings and workshops being set up. Test releases have not been set, but Blumenthal said to “stay tuned: we are anxious to get these out into the public sector."