For those having trouble tracking the often Byzantine passages and interconnected processes and timing elements of the healthcare information technology provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS is offering a road map out of the maze.
The ONC released an eight-page operating plan and timetable for itself and other federal agencies for issuing reports, rules and guidelines for federal healthcare IT programs under the stimulus act. The document fails, however, to provide a definition of "meaningful use" of electronic health-record systems or a deadline when that definition might be provided, nor does it say when HHS will establish a certification and testing procedure for EHR systems, both key requirements under the stimulus legislation.
Under the law, providers must use certified EHRs in a "meaningful manner" to qualify for an estimated $34 billion in subsidy payments for IT systems under Medicare and Medicaid. These and other decisionsabout how to best address standards development and harmonization, privacy and security issues, governance of health information exchanges, workforce training and education for providers and consumerswill be made, the unsigned document pledges.
Such "foundational work," according to the document, is required "to support the large investment that will be made through the Medicare and Medicaid incentives programs."