Physical Therapy and ONC Health IT ? Better Healthcare Ahead
The country has been making slow but steady progress on the road to better healthcare. There have been several Health IT Programs from the ONC (Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology). In the physical therapy world, there may have been some confusion about these programs and their relevance. To attempt to clear the fog, a sliver of relevant history may be helpful.
ONC Health IT ? The TimelineIt all began with the Meaningful Use Program from 2009 to accelerate the adoption of electronic health records. The Meaningful Use Program (today, the Promoting Interoperability Program) was an incentive program for physicians and hospitals to step up EHR implementation and share health information digitally. Use of certified electronic health records technology was one of the program requirements. In 2010, the ONC Health IT Certification Program was established as part of the Meaningful Use program. The program was voluntary but to become eligible for financial incentives, most hospital-based and physician-based EHRs obtained ONC certification. All along, physical therapists were largely kept out of the loop. The Practice Pro platform and others like it in the physical therapy industry fell under an exception to the interoperability standards that were aimed at Certified Health IT systems. The ONC Health IT Certification Program has a long history of excluding physical therapy providers and vendors, dating back to the Meaningful Use Program to the current day Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) eligibility. The certification is designed around physician-based data standards, which have never been formally implemented in the physical therapy industry. To promote innovation in the Health IT ecosystem by delivering high quality health information to patients and clinicians, the 21st Century Cures Act was signed into law in 2016. The act gave a boost to technology-driven transparency for enabling patients and customers to achieve increased visibility into the services, quality, and cost of health care. In 2017, the Meaningful Use Program was renamed as the Promoting Interoperability Program as part of MIPS. ONC published the Cures Act Final Rule in 2020 with two component rules: Implementing interoperability and giving patients full access to their healthcare data. The Final Rule is commonly referred to as the Information Blocking Final Rule. Passage of the Final Rule was a heads-up for physical therapists to start paying more attention to the regulation in order to remain compliant and avoid potential penalties or disincentives down the road. The Final Rule includes specific terminology on regulation parameters:
- Interoperability: Ability of an electronic system or software to exchange or share information
- Information Blocking: An action that could interfere with, prevent, or discourage access, exchange, or use of electronic health information
- Actors: Includes healthcare providers, health IT developers, and health information networks or exchanges
- Electronic Health Information: Protected Electronic Health Information that is contained in a designated record set as per HIPAA