Over the next five years, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology would like the Health IT Certification Program’s current electronic testing portfolio of taxpayer-funded tools to include as many industry-developed and maintained tools as possible.

Testing tools are used by health IT developers and others during the creation of software that implements standards applicable to certification criteria used in ONC’s HIT Certification Program. However, the current testing tools developed and used as part of the program have historically been government supported.

According to Steve Posnack, director of the Office of Standards and Technology at ONC, the agency’s five-year goal is to leverage industry’s test tools to enable the program to more efficiently focus its resources and better align with the private sector, as well as support “real world testing” mandated by the 21st Century Cures Act.

“There’s quite a bit of testing already going on in industry,” says Posnack. “If there are better tools out there, or more efficient ways to do testing, or ways in which we can work collaboratively to establish some form of reciprocity, then we’re all about trying to work that out.”

Posnack acknowledges that “there have always been critiques” regarding the capacity and capability of the test tools provided under ONC’s HIT Certification Program. “We are very much interested in partnering with (industry) to make sure that the program reflects the best available tools out there,” he adds.

Steve Posnack

Also See: ONC releases final rule for Health IT Certification Program

In June, for the first time, an industry-developed testing method for health IT was approved by ONC for the HIT Certification Program. The National Committee for Quality Assurance’s electronic clinical quality measure (eCQM) testing method was formally accepted by the agency as an alternative to the existing test method.

Health IT Now, a coalition of patient groups, provider organizations, employers and payers, voiced its support for ONC’s decision to shift to industry-developed testing tools.

“Since the Meaningful Use program’s inception, Health IT Now has consistently pushed for federal recognition of industry-developed testing tools, and we are pleased to see ONC responding in kind,” said HITN Executive Director Joel White. “We should have been doing this all along.”

“We believe these reforms, supported by the 21st Century Cures Act, will improve interoperability by ensuring testing tools are developed by those who know what works in everyday industry practice,” White added. “Further, this shift can eliminate waste by preventing ONC from duplicating what private sector entities can do more effectively. Already, ONC has partnered with stakeholders like the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs (NCPDP) to successfully put industry-developed standards to use. We encourage ONC to continue and broaden this effort moving forward.”

Posnack concludes that ONC would like to “leverage what the private sector has developed,” and he says that the agency’s five-year goal is a “recognition that it’s going to take time to motivate various different stakeholders that have their own tools or who that may need to refine their tooling to make sure that they can comprehensively address certain certification criteria.”

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