ONC Town Hall brings attendees' questions to the fore

Following confirmation that the proposed rules for meaningful use Stage 2 had been submitted to the Federal Register for publication, ONC personnel -- including National Coordinator Farzad Mostashari, MD -- fielded questions from HIMSS12 attendees Wednesday afternoon during the agency’s open-forum Town Hall session.

Issues raised by audience members ranged far and wide – from ONC’s ability to convene malpractice insurers for an analysis of their data, to a call for EHR vendors to place their APIs in a common library that could help healthcare providers build interfaces to EHR components, to the role of sub-specialists in qualifying for meaningful use incentives.

Mostashari also took the opportunity to touch upon ONC’s ongoing initiatives – to explain “who we are and what we do.”

“Our task is to use health information technology to improve health and healthcare for all Americans. That’s our mission,” Mostashari explained. “It’s really about improvements in health, and information is the medium that we operate in. And technology is the promise that tomorrow is going to be faster, better, cheaper than today.”

Mostashari also mentioned that the Government Accounting Office has conducted 9 studies confirming that ONC is making good use of the $2 billion in federal funding allocated to its activities through the HITECH Act.

In response to a Texas physician who asked about “paranoia” in the community in regard to availability of their health information, Mostashari  referenced an intention to operate on a “first-name basis” with information exchange, “which means there is no substitute for trust” in how the data is handled.

He also explained that payment models should provide incentives to share information. “When there is a business case in which information can be queried, found and retrieved, you then have active participation. The challenge for us is to let information flow where it can flow based on business cases and trust.”