Officials to use employee plan to push health IT standards

Managers of the 8 million-member Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan say they can use its market power to move the nation's health care providers to adopt standardized electronic records and interoperable IT platforms. But it won't be easy.

Plan officials first have to work with several large government health organizations such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Office of Personnel Management, Veterans Affairs Department and the Defense Department's TriCare program, as well as with private insurers and payers, said David J. Brailer, national coordinator of health IT for the Health and Human Services Department.

Brailer and other government chiefs'including Office of Personnel Management director Linda M. Springer and Carolyn M. Clancy, director of HHS' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality'last week told the House Government Reform Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce and Agency Organization of the challenges they face in convincing the private sector to agree to health IT standards.

As the various players in the federal government coordinate their activities, they'll seek to align IT systems and formats with the private sector.

'We want to use all the purchasing power we have and bring private-sector players together to line up behind certified [IT] products, to line up behind standards and to line up behind the adoption of certain technologies,' Brailer said after his appearance before the panel.

Springer says OPM plans to provide incentives for the adoption of interoperable health IT systems by key providers under the plan's contracts and to introduce incentives and performance goals to make records accessible through secure and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act-compliant interoperable systems, among other things.

It will be a tall order to get the nation's doctors'already burdened with high malpractice insurance premiums'to spend money for new IT systems that meet government standards for electronic records creation, storage and transmission.

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