A Washington, D.C.-based think tank contracted to create HHS' electronic health record reporting program has released a draft questionnaire that clinicians, pharmacists and hospital information technology staff would use to evaluate software products.
Under the 21st Century Cures Act, HHS is required to collect data on health IT software certified by the agency. The ultimate goal is to publish interoperability, usability and other data from software users and developers, so that users can compare products before purchasing them.
HHS' Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology in 2018 tapped economic and social policy research think tank Urban Institute and consulting firm HealthTech Solutions to develop the program, dubbed the EHR reporting program.
The Urban Institute on Tuesday published a draft set of criteria users of health IT products would use to evaluate software they use, kicking off a 60-day public feedback period. The questionnaire—which would be voluntary—asks users to respond to 24 questions, which mainly evaluate products on interoperability, usability, and privacy and security.
ONC and the Urban Institute are requesting feedback on whether any questions should be adjusted or removed; what would motivate users to report on the health IT products they're using; and whether the questionnaire should cover only the most recent version of a product, or all previous versions.
In addition to voluntary reports from product users, the EHR reporting program would also require product developers to submit information about their software. The Urban Institute said it plans to release a draft of the criteria that product developers would report on at a later date.
Both sets of reporting criteria are based on input from clinicians, community health center staff, medical professional societies, health IT software developers, payers and state health officials that ONC and the Urban Institute collected from August 2018 to January 2020.
In public comments submitted to ONC about the EHR reporting program in 2018, many healthcare groups stressed the need for transparency into software implementation, maintenance and upgrade costs. Today, those prices often remain hidden—but implementing a new EHR system can cost hospitals millions of dollars.
That price information might be better collected from software developers. Based on its research to date, the Urban Institute said collecting detailed cost information from users would be too burdensome. Instead of asking users about specific software costs, the draft questionnaire for users asks about pricing models, as well as approximate costs of implementing and maintaining the software they use.
The public comment period for the EHR reporting program's draft user-reported criteria closes Aug. 10.