ONC shifting focus from EHR adoption to usability, interoperability, Rucker says

The ONC chief told a Washington gathering the time is right to address the ‘angst’ over EHR design and moving medical records.
By Bill Siwicki
01:56 PM
ONC interoperability

When it comes to the focus of the work of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, adoption is out and usability and interoperability are in as health IT becomes more fully developed and new healthcare laws take full effect, ONC chief Donald W. Rucker, MD, said at a meeting in Washington Friday morning.

The 2009 HITECH Act has thus far provided about $36 billion to incentivize the adoption of electronic health records. And a significantly increasing number of healthcare organizations have been deploying the technology. Now, the 2015 Medicare physician payment law and the 21st Century Cures Act emphasize the free flow of medical records between systems and organizations.

[Also: Pew tells Congress to reject Trump's budget cuts to ONC]

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"There's been a lot of angst out there about moving medical records," Rucker told attendees at the Direct Exchange Workshop, according to Politico. Rucker added that improving usability is too complex for government alone to solve. "I've never felt that kind of stuff works." 

Rucker’s remarks come shortly after deputy assistant secretary John White publicly called for patients to have a single record containing all of their health data. And HHS Secretary Tom Price, MD, has said several times one of his goals is to reduce the burden that today’s health IT places on physicians. 

Rucker also said during the Friday meeting that ONC and CMS are working to try and figure out how to minimize how much time clinicians spend on unneeded data entry and that EHR vendors need to make their software more flexible. 

[Also: Health IT Now to Tom Price: Limit ONC's 'overstep and mission creep']

The ONC is considering incentives for both providers and patients to share medical records in order to boost interoperability. The issue can be divided into three areas: patient use, provider accountability and new business models, Rucker said.

"I don't want to say 'mission accomplished,'" Politico quoted Rucker as saying. "If you look at the number of people on EMRs before the spending and ONC's work and the number of people on EMRs afterward, there's a definite achievement there."

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the writer: bill.siwicki@himssmedia.com

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