AMIA, Pew: Congress must fund ONC EHR reporting program

The informatics group also sent a letter to Congress earlier in the week about its concern the tax bill will slash the stipend for graduate students studying health informatics.
By Jessica Davis
11:34 AM

The Pew Charitable Trusts and American Medical Informatics Association are pressing Congress on its cuts to the Office of the National Coordinator, which will prevent the agency from implementing the EHR reporting program required by the 21st Century Cures Act.

The Cures Act requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish an EHR reporting program to measure a platform’s usability, security and interoperability – among other functions. The mandate was designed to help providers choose the right EHR platform for their organizations.

[Also: CMS chief medical officer: We must develop new skills for EHR usability and human-centered design]

However, in October, Deputy National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Jon White, MD, told the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions that ONC won’t be able to meet that requirement.

The letter – sent by AMIA Vice President for Public Policy Jeffery Smith and Pew Manager of Health IT Ben Moscovitch – asks Congress to make sure ONC has the required funds to implement these provisions.

The requirement “will provide greater transparency to clinicians and hospitals that the technology they purchase is interoperable and usable,” Smith and Moscovitch wrote. “This provision also has the potential to reduce clinician burden, support care coordination among healthcare providers and improve patient safety.”

Further, the reporting program will give developers and providers better information to improve EHR development purchasing implementation and customization.

AMIA also sent a letter to Congress earlier this week, expressing concern that the Republican tax overhaul could dissuade graduate students from pursuing careers in healthcare informatics due to tuition waivers.

The concern with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act are provisions that would whittle the stipend for graduate students majoring in health informatics down from $30,000 a year to less than $20,000 under the bill.

The amount would make “graduate studies impossible for many students who have no other means of financial support,” AMIA President and CEO Douglas Frisma, MD, and AMIA Board Chair Thomas Payne, MD, wrote.

“As health informatics students graduate from highly respected schools in biology, medicine and computing-related fields, we anticipate that a disincentive of this magnitude would drive potential students from pursuing graduate research,” they wrote.

The result of which would be “a deleterious effect across both academia and industry, which increasingly relies on high-quality graduate training,” they added. As the health industry increasingly relies on IT, the profession requires a supply of well-trained professionals.

Healthcare IT staffing already is facing a shortage, much like the rest of the country. Security positions are facing an even greater workforce shortage, as the recent HHS Cybersecurity Task Force report found one out of three organizations don’t have a dedicated security leader.

Twitter: @JessieFDavis
Email the writer: