Little changes for overall gains

This week in health IT there were some incremental developments on the interoperability front.

After much focus on whether EHR vendors are truly working toward interoperability or engaging in information blocking, stakeholders are elevating their efforts to drive improvements. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) has launched an online form where users can log complaints about certified products' functionality and usability.

The first step is contacting the developer or vendor, Acting Deputy National Coordinator for Health IT Jon White, MD, wrote on ONC’s website, but, if that doesn’t work, advised users to “contact the ONC-Authorized Certification Body (ACB), which should be able to work with you and the developer to resolve most issues. But if the issue remains unresolved, please submit your issues to ONC."

The agency wants to know about such problems as the inability of EHRs to share or receive health information, health IT safety, data blocking and more. It will be interesting to see how many and what kind of complaints ONC gets.

Meanwhile, a review of EHR contracts by Politico found that some of the biggest EHR vendors include gag clauses that prevent their provider customers from sharing information about any software issues that could compromise patient safety.

Politico reviewed 11 contracts with major providers—including Epic, Allscripts, Cerner, Meditech and eClinicalWorks—from hospitals and health systems across three states. Ten of the contracts contained clauses that could be enacted to prevent disclosure of large portions of information regarding provider use of the technology.

"Vendors say such restrictions target only breaches of intellectual property and are invoked rarely," according to investigators. "But doctors, researchers and members of Congress contend they stifle important discussions, including disclosures that problems exist. In some cases, they say, the software's faults can have lethal results, misleading doctors and nurses who rely upon it for critical information in life-or-death situations."

Will exposure of these gag clauses drive any meaningful change?

Beth Walsh

Clinical Innovation + Technology editor