Transparency websites give health IT purchasers clear view of products

Purchasers of certified health information technology (IT) have access to information about health IT products’ costs and limitations via two new websites maintained by the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). The 2015 Edition Health IT Final rule required developers to disclose information about known material limitations and types of costs associated with their products and to make an attestation as to whether they will voluntarily take additional actions to increase transparency regarding their products and business practices. The information is available on the ONC’s Certified Health IT Developer Transparency website, as well as on the upgraded health IT product list.

Mandatory disclosures

The Final rule (80 FR 62602, October 16, 2015) mandated developer disclosures so that purchasers could better understand obstacles and costs that they might face, allowing them to compare and knowledgeably select products. Statements must be written in detailed, plain language. Because customers can make more informed choices based on the disclosed information, developers have more incentives to improve upon their products and to refrain from engaging in information blocking, which is deliberate or unreasonable interference with the exchange of electronic health information.

Voluntary attestation

Earlier in 2016, companies that provide 90 percent of electronic health records (EHRs) used by hospitals nationwide made an interoperability pledge, agreeing to improve consumer access, refrain from blocking and ensure transparency, and implement federally recognized interoperability standards. “Nearly all developers” who made the earlier pledge have voluntarily attested, pursuant to the requirement set forth in the Final rule, that they will take additional actions to promote transparency, including making information about their business practices available to potential customers and requestors. The Final rule also allowed developers to attest that they will not take additional voluntary actions.

ONC-Authorized Certification Bodies (ONC-ACB) will monitor developers to ensure that they are “reporting accurate and compliant disclosures.” Developers who fail to do so will be subject to corrective action, including potential termination of certification.