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Providers can pass problems with health IT products, information blocking to ONC

If customer satisfaction and retention weren’t reasons enough, health IT vendors now have more motivation to quickly and thoroughly respond to complaints about their health IT products. Healthcare providers can appeal to ONC if they feel vendors don’t acknowledge and assist them with system dilemmas or questions.

A blog post written by Jon White, M.D., deputy national coordinator at ONC, stated the agency will work with CMS to record and respond to health IT product concerns filed at the ONC’s complaint webpage. The post advises providers to first contact their vendors, and if that effort isn’t fruitful, to contact an ONC-Authorized Certification Body if they think the issue relates to something a product is certified to do. ONC-Authorized Certification Bodies comprise a group of vendors and testing labs that certify EHRs for the government. Only if those two steps fail should a grievance be formally made to ONC.

ONC said it will assign each issue to the appropriate ONC staff member or pass the problem to another group within the federal government. If someone at ONC can’t fix the problem, the agency may send providers back to where they started: communicating with their vendors.

Information blocking — which occurs when providers or vendors meddle with the exchange of health information without reason for doing so — appears to be stuck on ONC’s radar. It is mentioned as the first issue on a list of causes for which providers should contact ONC. White’s blog also mentioned poor information exchange, EHR usability and general product performance and safety as reasons providers should file complaints through ONC.

Information blocking was the subject of a 39-page report released by ONC earlier this year, preceding the HIMSS 2015 conference. That report made it clear ONC was aware that some health IT product vendors and providers were deliberately engaging in information blocking and the agency would take action to deter it. The establishment of the health IT complaints outlet is one step in that anti-information blocking plan, as the blog said one of the website’s goals is to help ONC follow and reduce instances of information blocking, as well as enhancing the usability and safety of health IT products.

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