HIT Policy Committee: Achieving meaningful use will require personal change

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Paul C. Tang, MD, vice president, CMIO at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Image source: Palo Alto Medical Foundation

Change will be one of the hardest goals to accomplish as practitioners seek to achieve meaningful use of health IT, said Paul Tang, MD, vice chair for the HIT Policy Committee. Tang took questions and comments on meaningful use this week during an informational webinar hosted by the Strategic Plan Workgroup of the HIT Policy Committee regarding its Health IT Strategic Framework.

The workgroup, a federal advisory committee that provides recommendations on health IT to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), held a public session to obtain feedback from the healthcare community regarding the Health IT Strategic Framework, which will become a foundation for the updates to the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan.

“We’re expecting your feedback will help us know if we are heading in the right direction…so that the workgroup can consider that input before making final recommendations to the HIT Policy Committee and ONC,” said Jodi Daniel, JD, director of the Office of Policy and Research at ONC and co-chair of the workgroup.

One webinar participant noted that the readiness to change involves human factors and that change must be strategic, meaning it must be created early enough to prevent resistance. This was an extraordinarily important point, Tang said. "[Your] input would cause us to go back and make sure that we target that as something that the country, maybe through some of the efforts of ONC, would help us address."

“I can think of existing programs like the Regional Extension Centers that certainly will, in the course of trying to help smaller providers get through the implementation of these EHRs and their meaningful use [criteria], clearly have to address change, change management and the readiness of change, but the notion of having formal ways of getting this kind of information out to everyone is a good idea,” said Tang.

Included in the agenda were four public comment sections on topics including a learning health system, meaningful use of health IT, policy and technical infrastructure, and privacy and security. In the meaningful use portion of the webinar, Tang noted the workgroup’s objectives on the topic:

  • By 2014, capture, manage and meaningfully use health information to improve the health and healthcare for all individuals;
  • Leverage public sector resources and policy levers in coordination with the private sector to accelerate adoption of proven health IT that achieves health outcome goals;
  • Target health IT investments to address national high priority health issues. Use exemplars to “exercise” the entire health IT system and human interaction, and measure the health-outcome results;
  • Facilitate appropriate and secure exchange of health information to improve individual and population health and reduce disparities by providing decision makers (including patients, consumers and healthcare professionals) access to the right information at the right time;
  • Advance and promote health IT to inform and engage patients and caregivers in shared decision making on matters related to patients’ health and healthcare; and
  • Improve efficiency in the healthcare system and reduce administrative burden on providers and patients through HIT.

One commenter cited the recent request from 37 U.S. senators to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to modify the current "all-or-nothing" approach, and asked if meaningful use metrics will be relaxed in time for a “consistent flow” once the metrics are in action.

Tang, also chair for the Strategic Plan Workgroup, reminded the audience that organizations can qualify up to the last quarter of 2012 and still meet the highest payments amount for Stage 1. Dates are written into the HITECH Act so the urgency is all around, he said, but the HIT Policy Committee and workgroup are trying to get draft recommendations--or at least signals to the industry--"of how we are trying to progress on Stages 2 and 3 criteria, to try and give the industry and organizations enough warning of where we are heading on that roadmap.”

Thoughts on the Health IT Strategic Framework can be shared on the Federal Advisory Committee blog.