What promoters of electronic prescribing see as a major barrier to the use of the technologythe requirement by the Drug Enforcement Administration that prescriptions for certain regulated drugs be written on paperwill remain a barrier for a while longer, an HHS official said Wednesday.
Jodi Daniel, director of the office of policy and research at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS, told about 350 attendees at a town hall meeting during the annual convention of the Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society in Orlando, Fla., that the DEA rule will remain in place for a while longer.
We have been working closely with the DEA, Daniel said. They have a draft NPR or notice of proposed rule-making, but added that it is not public at this point. So, she said, There is not much news yet, but there is some movement.
Daniel offered no prediction of when the DEA proposal might be published, or how long it might take for the DEA to lift its e-prescribing ban on scheduled drugs.
ONCHIT head Robert Kolodner said his office was offering opportunities for additional organizations to participate in a federally funded demonstration of interoperable electronic health information exchanges, part of a multiyear, government-funded program to promote a proposed national health information network, or NHIN.
Last fall, ONCHIT selected nine contractors to perform what it called NHIN trial implementations using four architectures and products developed under a previous ONCHIT contract.
Kolodner said information about the call for additional participants has been posted on the ONCHIT Web site. The program is open to both not-for-profit and for-profit healthcare organizations, and, according to the call, the purpose of the additional grants is for other networks, such as integrated delivery systems; personally controlled health-record support organizations; state, regional and nongeographic health information exchange entities; and specialty networks to participate in the network of networks that is the nationwide health information network.
Winners of the newest round of grants are to implement and test the NHIN specifications and demonstrate their connectivity to others. Awardees shall achieve, test and demonstrate technical and trust relationships with the other participants in the NHIN. An additional $1 million has been allocated for this latest round of grants, of which, up to 10 will be awarded. The project is to run from March 2008 through February 2011, but funding for the first year will be capped at $100,000 per grantee per year. Proposals are due March 17.
Kolodner said the aim is to create an exchange that is both a push and a pull, where youll be able to get information from participating entities as well as provide it. A recent survey showed just 14% of physicians have an electronic health-record system. That still aint a lot of docs, Kolodner said, but by late 2009 through 2012, expect a sharp ramp-up in physician EHR adoption.
One questioner from the audience asked Daniel about U.S. privacy policies for the NHIN in light of a poll reported in November 2007 indicating growing dissatisfaction among general practitioners with a similar, government-funded effort in the U.K. According to a published report in the Guardian newspaper there, 59% of 1,000 physicians in the poll said they planned to boycott a proposed national health information service because of privacy concerns. That number had swelled from 38% in a poll a year earlier, the newspaper reported.
I think youve hit on one of the critical policy issues we need to deal with, Daniel said. Its not just the consumers who must feel that the information is being appropriately used, its the providers who (also) must feel it is being protected.
Daniel said, in addition to federal privacy laws, there are a ton of different state protections that go beyond the federal protection. She said the HHS-funded Health Information Security and Privacy Collaboration has 44 states and territories participating, with members including government leaders, privacy representatives, providers and insurers. The HISPC has seven work groups addressing different areas of privacy and security protection.
What do you think? Write us with your comments at [email protected]. Please include your name, title and hometown.