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Mostashari warns of tighter EHR regulations if vendors don't improve

U.S. National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari, M.D., has a message to EHR vendors who put profits ahead of care quality: stricter EHR regulations may be coming.

At the February 6 meeting of the Health IT Policy Committee in Washington, D.C.,, Mostashari explained his desire to avoid a heavy-handed regulatory approach. He said that allowing technology vendors, care providers and consumers to exercise personal responsibility is the best way to foster innovation and create a better health care system.

While he said that the majority of stakeholders recognize this, he acknowledged that some players do not. He characterized the actions of some vendors, who have opaque pricing practices and offer products that silo off data for proprietary reasons, as being “beyond the pale.” While Mostashari said he would love to leave the industry free to regulate itself, the actions of these bad actors might demand future regulation.

“There are times when we are part of a society and we’re not just individual actors and there are times when competition on its own does not yield the best results, and surely we can use government regulation to moderate when competition is not in the public interest,” Mostashari said.

I wouldn’t want to speculate on which specific vendors Mostashari considers bad actors, but it’s no secret that some are viewed as taking a limited approach to data liquidity for proprietary reasons. In the current regulatory environment it does still make business sense for some vendors to lock down data on behalf of their customers.

It’s interesting to consider what kind of regulation Mostashari thinks would solve this problem without hitting the entire community unnecessarily. He stressed that the majority of vendors take a broad view of data exchange and have good motives. He said these vendors should not be burdened with extra regulations. So how do you rein in corporate evildoers without stifling innovators?

That question was left unanswered. Perhaps it’s too soon to get into specifics. Either way, the tenor of Mostashari’s message was clear. Vendors can either shape up or prepare for “classic regulatory approaches.” I’m sure those who already view current meaningful use rules and certifications standards as burdensome are cringing at the sound of that.

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