Health IT panel approves intermediaries for data

Patient data would flow through two "middlemen" before reaching feds

Doctors and hospitals would submit patient care records to two intermediaries before the data is received by federal authorities for the purpose of quality reporting, according to a recommendation approved by a federal advisory panel.

The Health Information Technology Standards Committee, which is advising the Health and Human Services Department (HHS), on Sept. 15 adopted a framework for the flow of patient data in electronic health records (EHRs) to measure quality of care.

HHS is developing regulations for distributing more than $19 billion in payments under the economic stimulus law to doctors' offices and hospitals that buy and "meaningfully use" certified EHR systems. To show meaningful use, providers will have to provide patient data that can be used to measure quality of care.

For example, doctors likely will have to show what percentage of their patients with diabetes and high blood pressure have their diseases under control. The committee already has approved 30 such standards for quality.

The framework to govern the flow of the quality data was proposed Sept. 15 by the panel’s Clinical Quality Workgroup, chaired by Janet Corrigan and Floyd Eisenberg, the president and senior vice president, respectively, of the National Quality Forum. The forum is an entity authorized by HHS to develop consensus quality standards for health care.

The proposed workflow for quality reports would include two intermediaries. First, providers would submit the patient data to a data-collection assistant, most likely a health information exchange.

Second, the data-collection assistant would submit the data to a quality report-processing entity, which would process the data and turn it over to federal agencies such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Members of the workgroup noted that a nationwide processing entity for such data does not currently exist. The goal is to get the data in formats that can be transmitted to federal agencies for the purpose of achieving quality measurements.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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