Regulation: Government-funded group endorses standards for health information technology

September 12, 2008

The National Quality Forum, a health-care improvement nonprofit group comprised up of nearly 400 national, state, regional, and local private and public organizations endorsed nine new national voluntary standards for health information technology in the areas of electronic prescribing, electronic health record interoperability, care management, quality registries, and the medical home.

The National Quality Forum (NQF), a health-care improvement nonprofit group comprised of nearly 400 national, state, regional, and local private and public organizations-including the largest primary care physician groups-endorsed nine new national voluntary standards for health information technology (HIT) in the areas of electronic prescribing, electronic health record (EHR) interoperability, care management, quality registries, and the medical home.

With so much emphasis put on HIT in recent years (including a $560 million piece of legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives), the NQF was tapped by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) eight months ago to study and design these measures.

Although these nine standards are designed to help guide doctors, practice managers, and health system IT directors select the right tools to enhance their practice and patient care, public and private third-party payers may use them to in conjunction with quality incentives.

"[NQF] measures are very frequently used by public and private purchasers for public reporting or pay-for-performance," says NQF President and CEO Janet Corrigan.  Since this particular project was funded by CMS, it clearly signals an interest on their part in considering these various performance measures

The standards encourage the use of e-prescribing, the adoption of an EHR system which can communicate with external laboratories and the implementation of patient tracking systems and registries.

Such recommendations echo those other large, diverse health-care improvement groups (such as the Markle Foundation and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society), which may just add to the confusion of doctors considering adding new technology to their practice and not improve adoption, which among doctors is still quite low.

"Without some value proposition to the end user to adopt and use HIT, it will just sit on the shelf," says John Moore, founder and managing director of health-care analyst firm, Chilmark Research.