“The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued for the voluntary 2015 edition of electronic health record (EHR) technology certification criteria is an important next step in the ongoing effort to ensure health information technology (health IT) facilitates better care, better outcomes, and lower costs. We applaud the proposal from the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC), released Friday, for reflecting a commitment to ensuring that health IT meets the needs of patients and families.
Health IT will only achieve its full potential to improve our health care system if key tools for patients and families are built into EHR technology, which is why we are encouraged to see essential patient- and family-centered criteria included in the proposed rule. Importantly, it contains a number of recommendations consistent with the Consumer Partnership for eHealth’s Disparities Action Plan. It also reflects a more dynamic vision of care planning that adapts to patients’ health goals.
The rule recommends that EHRs have the capability to identify patients’ preferred language on a more granular level and identifies the importance of communicating with patients in that language. It also recommends that EHRs have the capability to filter quality measures by patient characteristics such as language, socioeconomic status and education level, which would facilitate the identification of patterns and may reveal specific disparities in care within a provider’s patient population. These functionalities are essential to identifying and reducing health disparities, a pervasive and costly problem.
Looking ahead to the 2017 edition of the certification standards, the rule recommends that EHRs have the ability to record disability status, sexual orientation and gender identity. Requiring EHRs to record factors pertinent to individuals’ health, such as disability status or caregiver presence, provides greater context regarding patients’ health outcomes and makes it more likely that care instructions and care recommendations will be understood and followed. While we would prefer that these criteria be incorporated sooner, we are encouraged by their inclusion.
Lastly, the rule proposes important new approaches to patient matching to ensure that individual records from different sources and providers (doctors, hospitals, laboratories, etc.) are properly matched to the correct patient, which is critical to providing safe, high-quality care.
The proposed rule is a significant step in the right direction for patients and families. Updating certification criteria more frequently, as new understandings, policies and standards become available, allows vendors, doctors and hospitals to begin incorporating them sooner for everyone’s benefit. We look forward to working with ONC as certification criteria are updated to continue the progress.”