ONC's report on health IT comparison covers four mechanisms

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) has released a report to Congress on the feasibility of creating an EHR comparison tool.

As the variety of health IT products increases, comparison tools are increasingly critical to the provider community, according to the agency. "Improving comparison tools’ functionality and utility is only one component in ensuring purchasers, such as providers, have access to health IT products that support safe, efficient and effective care," according to the report.

This ONC report highlights four mechanisms that could be used to improve the healthcare community’s ability to compare and select health IT products.

Purchasing health IT is a “complex process,” according to the report. And, as the variety of products available increases, comparison tools will become increasingly critical requiring multiple mechanisms that rely on support from both the federal government and private sector.

Needs and solutions vary by user type, the report notes. Of the four mechanisms detailed in the report, two target providers in support of their certified health IT selection and two target comparison tool developers to stimulate their ability to create or improve certified health IT comparison tools.

They are:

  1. Provide targeted technical assistance.
  2. Improve awareness of the comparison tool marketplace.
  3. Collect and share information on certified health IT.
  4. Collaborate with stakeholders to develop comparison tools that better meet providers’ certified health IT comparison needs.

Currently, there is very little comparative information available on health IT usability and cost, the report says. Current comparison tools only have information on functionality. The shift towards assessing and tracking healthcare quality will foster a strong need among providers to select products that meet their unique quality reporting and monitoring needs.

There is a robust, diverse marketplace for health IT comparison tools, but gaps remain, the report says. As the need for such tools increases so will the variety. The “federal government has and should continue to support a wide range of virtual and onsite technical assistance,” especially to those organizations at a disadvantage in terms of resources and health IT experience.” 

Read the complete report.