The House Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation held a hearing November 14th to review federal activities promoting the interoperability of HIT. Farzad Mostashari, M.D., ScM, HHS National Coordinator for HIT one of the witnesses appeared before the Subcommittee to discuss the progress HHS is making to develop an effective health IT system in the U.S.
He reported that as of September 2012, more than 300,000 eligible professionals as well as over 75 percent of eligible hospitals have registered to participate in CMS incentive programs. Also, as of August 2012, Regional Extension Centers (REC) have assisted over 135,000 primary care providers. More than 40 percent of all primary care providers are working with RECs with over half of those providers caring for patients in rural areas.
He discussed how implementing Stage 1 meaningful use requirements was helpful in developing Stage 2. The final rules for Stage 2 were published in September and represent an important next step to help doctors and hospitals use and exchange electronic health information. Stage 3 requirements will focus on health outcomes by improving quality, safety, efficiency, and clinical decision support tools.
Mostashari also discussed how ONC engages other Federal agencies and stakeholders including NIST in developing standards for health IT. NIST’s main focus has been on developing the key standards that the ONC needs for current and future Meaningful Use criteria.
Charles H. Romine PhD, Director of the Information Technology Laboratory at NIST, also appearing before the House Subcommittee pointed out that each standard, test, and test tool developed by NIST, strengthens the infrastructure needed by ONC to certify systems to the Meaningful Use Stage 2 criteria.
To support the ONC testing program, NIST is working with Standard Development Organizations (SDO) and others in areas such as electronic prescribing and public health. NIST is working with the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs (NCPDP) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), an accredited standards organization responsible for the SCRIPT 2 standard used to send new prescription requests to a pharmacy.
NIST’s staff is working with NCPDP to ensure the NIST-developed conformance test tool and test procedures cover the required elements necessary for compliance to the implementation guide (standard) NCPDP developed.
For future ONC requirements, NIST is providing technical leadership in evolving standards for interoperable EHRs as well as medical devices, genomics, imaging, text retrieval, and analysis, and semantics. ONC has worked with NIST on issues of measuring and improving the usability of EHR products.
Experts from NIST participate on the Health IT Policy Committee that makes recommendations on policy to support the nationwide health information infrastructure. NIST experts also serve on the Health IT Standards Committee responsible for making recommendations on standards, implementation specifications, and certification criteria.
In addition, NIST works through the Standards and Interoperability Framework, to provide a forum for stakeholders to be able to identify and resolve standards-based issues that may be impeding progress in the marketplace.