ONC to use two existing surveys to better measure interoperability

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) announced it will use two existing surveys to improve how it measures “widespread interoperability.”

ONC will use the American Heart Association’s annual IT survey and CDC’s yearly report of electronic health record (EHR) use by in-office physicians. Because both are already used across the industry, ONC claims the change will not increase the reporting burden for doctors.

This move is in response to the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA), which calls for HHS to measure the exchange and use of clinical information. In April, ONC asked for feedback on the industry’s progress toward establishing increased interoperability.

The office received nearly 100 comments from organizations in health and health IT sectors. The responses addressed four major topics:

  • Burden: Do not create significant additional reporting burdens for clinicians and other healthcare providers.
  • Scope: Broaden the scope of measurement to include individuals and providers that are not eligible for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs.
  • Outcomes: Identify measures that go beyond exchange of health information. Although measuring the flow of information is important, it is also critical to examine the usage and usefulness of the information that is exchanged as well as the impact of exchange on health outcomes.
  • Complexity: Recognize the complexity of measuring interoperability. Multiple data sources and more discussions are needed to measure interoperability fully.

“Although the MACRA requirement for measuring interoperability largely focuses on ‘meaningful users,’ we are committed to advancing interoperability of health information more broadly,” Seth Pazinski, ONC director for Office of Planning, Evaluation and Analysis, and Talisha Searcy, Director of Research for the same office, wrote in a statement. “We will be expanding our measurement efforts to include populations across the care continuum in the near-term, as well as an increased focus on outcomes in the longer-term.”

ONC announced two methods of measuring advancements in interoperability that respond to both industry feedback and MACRA’s specific parameters:

  • The proportion of health care providers who are electronically engaging in core domains of interoperability such as sending, receiving, finding (querying) and integrating information received from outside sources.
  • The proportion of health care providers who report using the information they electronically receive from outside providers and sources for clinical decision-making.