What the government shutdown means for health IT development

By Keith W. Boone
10:34 AM

Non-essential US government operations are shut down.  That has some impacts on us in the Health IT Standards development space:

  1. You won't be able to test your CCDA documents or your implementation of the Direct transport.  TTT is down (the DNS name isn't even found right now).
  2. IHE testing supported by NIST will be offline (the servers are being shut down).
  3. The Certified Health IT Products List won't be updated.  It will still function, but you won't see newly certified products after 9/27.  Certifiers can still operate if they have local copies of test tools.
  4. Federal Employees engaged in standards development will not be on HL7 or IHE calls, or responding to e-mails.  You may see SOME e-mails ensuring an orderly shutdown, but that will be it until things are resolved.
  5. Contractors to the Federal government MAY be answering calls and/or handling e-mail, but will very likely be operating at reduced capacity.  They won't get paid by the government until things are cleared up.  As one person put it, we will be carried on overhead for the duration ... as long as it's short.  
  6. The previous two mean that there will likely be some empty seats at the October IHE meetings, and could impact proposals from S&I Framework (Data Access Framework) to IHE.  The private sector will just have to carry the load.
  7. Those two could also impact project scope statements and development of HL7 CQI Projects that were kick-[in-the-pants]-started last week in support of MU Stage 3 activities.  Hopefully we'll get the scope statements submitted (the only immediately pending requirement) by Sunday.
  8. Federal Advisory Committee meetings will not be held, nor will any FACA workgroup meetings be held.  (So, I have a little bit more time for my report back on principles for standards selection if you still want to give me your input.)
  9. Four people from ONC would remain working (my guess would be the top of the hierarchy: Jacob Rider [acting chief and CMO], Doug Fridsma [Chief Scientist], Judy Murphy [Deputy Coordinator], and Joy Pritts [Chief Privacy Officer]).
  10. S&I Framework Activities and calls will almost surely be canceled until the shutdown is over, but I've seen nothing official on that yet [this is now confirmed].

For those concerned about the recently started Health Insurance Exchanges, I'm sure there will be some bobbles, but I've seen reports from several places including in HHS planning documents that indicate that Medicare and Medicaid related activities would continue.

So, for those of us in the private sector, enjoy your vacation from Federally sponsored activities.  For my friends in the public sector impacted by this mess, I'm sorry that I won't be hearing from you, and I do hope it gets fixed soon.  We'll do our best to keep things going without you, and without making a mess of them while you aren't here to keep us in check (and that's not a tongue-in-cheek comment).