ONC releases updates for certification criteria and health IT safety guide

Over the past few days, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has released multiple announcements during the 2015 HIMSS Annual Conference and Exhibition. In these releases, the ONC included a proposed ruling for the health IT certification criteria and updates to the Guide to Privacy and Security of Electronic Health Information. 

Revisions and updates to certification criteria
Health care professionals are able to leave public comments on the new certification criteria ruling until May 29, 2015, through a template for organizations or providers who want to send any thoughts or concerns to the federal agency. Most of the feedback so far has been focused on the revisions to the new edition of the Health IT Certifications Criteria. These include the two alterations to the EHR certification program and the 10 optional criteria for certification that have recently been adopted. 

The additions and revisions to the new criteria point to the ONC's dedication to improving the expansion of interoperability between health IT systems throughout the country. This is key to creating efficient health information exchange systems. The ONC noted that the underlying goals of the recent edition are to modernize standards that many health care professionals feel are outdated, provide chances to enhance HIE within the health care sector and to accelerate innovation within practices and hospitals. 

Many providers have shown approval of the new edition, as it will likely provide more flexibility for themselves and health IT developers to successfully implement efficient HIE strategies. The Federal Register website has published a list of all the modifications included in the new criteria for providers to assess before sending their comments to the ONC. 

ONC focuses on patient safety
The ONC has recently adjusted some aspects of the Guide to Privacy and Security of Electronic Health Information and published the revisions. All of the alterations were made as a way to assist smaller practices to ensure that the security and privacy of their health technologies are effective. 

It is important that patients have full trust in their doctors and are engaging in their health information as the industry pushes for increased HIE and interoperability. The ONC's new criteria assists new providers in ensuring that their patients' recorded health data is accurate, up to date and can be accessed online with ease.

"When patients trust you and health information technology enough to share their health information, you will have a more complete picture of patients' overall health and together, you and your patient can make more-informed decisions," the ONC stated in the report. 

Secure health IT systems that prevent violations of patient privacy will enhance the overall quality of care for providers. Physicians should improve trust and communication with their patients to ensure that interactions are consistent so patients feel that they can comment on their health data. This will increase patient engagement.

If privacy violations do occur, the entire health care sector could be subjected to financial problems and patients' identities could be put at risk. Organizations need to be equipped with security and privacy tools to protect patient data or they will put the industry at risk of a data breach.