News Feature | June 3, 2015

ONC Publishes Interoperability Roadmap Public Comments

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

ONC Continues To Encourage Interoperability Efforts

ONC releases responses to its proposed interoperability plan and the comments run the gamut.

The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) has published 17 pages of public comments on its Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap and the responses to the proposed plan are widely mixed. The 10-year draft proposal was released in January 2015, open for public comments until April 3, 2015. The proposal is designed to deliver improved care and protect EHR data, according to ONC.

“While we have made great strides as a nation to improve EHR adoption, we must pivot towards true interoperability based on clear, defined and enforceable standards,” said CHIME President and CEO Russell P. Branzell, F.C.H.I.M.E., C.H.C.I.O. “This Roadmap incorporates a tremendous amount of stakeholder input and articulates a clear path towards interoperability. It is a cornerstone in the continuing evolution of federal health IT policymaking.”

Erica Galvez, ONC’s interoperability portfolio manager said that the initial comment review was mostly positive, with most concerns related to aggressiveness in standards adoption and governance processes, as well as regarding data privacy and security. According to Healthcare IT News, she told HIMSS15 attendees the majority of the 245 public comments reviewed so far were from healthcare providers and organizations that deliver health IT capabilities.

“They are generally supportive of the roadmap, offering suggestions for changes in specific areas,” she said. “They support the notion and tenets of it, with suggestions based more on the details rather than an overhaul.”

In a statement, WEDI responded to issues in the Interoperability Roadmap, saying, “WEDI applauds the work of ONC to develop a common framework for interoperability in our nation through the release of the recent roadmap. However, what we’ve found — from not only this industry interoperability survey, but also from our discussions around concerns from key groups — is that there are significant barriers to interoperable electronic data exchange that remain to be addressed across providers, health plans and vendors alike. We want to ensure that the roadmap is one that is realistic and viable for all entities involved, so that the industry can rally together around the work, rather than be discouraged or hesitant.”

The published public comments revealed both support and concerns regarding the plan. For example, Andrew Schlafly, General Counsel for The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, said, “We urge the government to scale back its proposals and not expand into this field. The free market can work amazingly well when allowed to do so.”

And Teresa Lee, executive director for the Alliance for Home Health Quality and Innovation, said, “The Alliance supports the direction of, and sentiment behind the roadmap, and commends the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's efforts in focusing attention on the need for national interoperability in health information technology.”

The FTC had also raised concerns about the state of competition as healthcare moves forward with interoperability, worrying that the plan could lead to antitrust issues as Health IT Outcomes reported.

ONC will release an updated draft later this year after reviewing comments and integrating suggestions.