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2/3/2011
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HIT Workgroup Reports Meaningful Use Challenges

Continually evolving rules around Health Information Technology compliance and certification pose challenges for software vendors, developers, and healthcare organizations.

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The Health Information Technology (HIT) Adoption and Certification Workgroup recently presented the findings from two days of hearings. The intent was to better inform the HIT Policy Committee and Meaningful Use Workgroup about the real-world challenges faced by organizations working to comply with their requirements.

After stating that the hearings showed "good appreciation" for the work being done by those committees and "overall, I felt a pretty positive attitude," HIT Policy Committee member Marc Probst, CIO at Intermountain Healthcare and co-chair of the Adoption and Certification Workgroup, went on to highlight the challenges cited.

One of those highlights had to with "confusion about the rules of the road around certification. It's not so much that the rules have changed, but through clarification they have changed as people understand them, at least that is the perception," he said. "It has been very frustrating."

Larry Wolf, member of the Adoption and Certification Workgroup and senior consulting application/data architect at Kindred Healthcare, said the continually evolving rules cause difficulties for both producers and implementers of software. "That can create big operational issues," he said.

The duo also reported that because Meaningful Use has, in fact, become the three-to-five-year strategic plan for organizations dedicated to achieving it, ONC and CMS had a responsibility to deliver a sound one.

"People need to understand where they're going and how they're going to get there so they can start to align resources. They don't want to just be saying, 'I know the next two years,' and then scramble to get there, 'I know next two years,' and then scramble to get there, 'I know next two years,' and then scramble to get there. That's not an effective way to do anything," said Wolf. "I know the Meaningful Use workgroup has been discussing their vision of Stage 3, so Stage 2 can actually be taking us there."

HIT Policy Committee member David Lansky, CEO of the Pacific Business Group on Health, suggested revising ONC's original strategic plan. HITECH was passed two years ago, he noted, and has a relatively long lifespan. "We are all struggling to take the lessons learned and get them back into the program. It makes me think we should consider an update of our strategic plan which would give the country a second-generation of guidance on where we think we can get with this six-year planning window."

Another issue raised was around the HIT workforce -- not so much the lack of it, but more the increased investment. "Someone said, 'I can find people to work --they just cost twice this year what they did last year,' so there has clearly been a huge increase in demand, but not supply," said Wolf.

Probst described the workforce issue as, "clearly out there like a looming cliff."

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