Most recently was a proposed rule Blumenthal announced the release of here Tuesday, covering the process by which his office with select organizations to certify EHRs for use in the stimulus law IT subsidy program.
That announcement came on the heels of rules issued in December by ONC and the CMS spelling out EHR certification criteria and requirements by providers to meaningfully use EHRs in order to qualify for subsidy payments under Medicare and Medicaid.
In addition, ONC has allocated nearly all of the $2 billion Congress appropriated to it for promoting IT development, regional IT extension programs, a national library of IT best practices, state health information exchanges and 15 “beacon” communities that will “light the way” in the use of IT by demonstrating “the factors that are critical in a community for success.” Last month, the office hired lawyer and Georgetown University researcher Joy Pritts, “the first chief privacy officer in the history of the Department of Health and Human Services.”
ONC has a relatively small staff, at 55 employees, “we can still fit in a school bus,” Blumenthal said. “We are small in number and we continue to need your support and advice,” he said in just one of several calls he made during the speech for help and input.
Looking ahead, Blumenthal said the tasks will be to incorporate public comments and complete the first set of federal rules by the end of spring and then implement the policies and programs put in place over the past year.
“We're going to be developing performance metrics for all of these programs, so we can manage to those objectives,” Blumenthal said. “That is a huge job. We're going to have to grow considerably.”
“I'm optimistic,” Blumenthal said, in summing up. “I think the wind is at our back in so, so many ways.”
In the future, “there will be no question then, whether the federal government ought to, is required to, support the acquisition of meaningful use and other forms of health information technology. It will be assumed as a core professional attribute.
“I think this is the future that awaits us,” Blumenthal said. “It's right around the corner. Some see it as the audacity of hope. I see it as common sense.”
In addition, Blumenthal mentioned that the CMS also issued a guide to states regarding the Clinical Lab Improvement Amendments, the federal law controlling the flow of laboratory data.