So much for be­ing first

Modern Healthcare - - Outliers -

First-come, first-served is a great dis­tri­bu­tion model for some things— pie at church pic­nics or “bat day” give­aways at the lo­cal ball park. For other things, not so much.

So, give HHS rule­mak­ers props for lis­ten­ing to their crit­ics and scrap­ping their orig­i­nal plan to use the model to se­lect a small but im­por­tant player in its health in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy pro­mo­tional cam­paign—that of “ap­proved ac­cred­i­ta­tion au­thor­ity.”

The ap­pli­ca­tion pe­riod for or­ga­ni­za­tions seek­ing to be­come that au­thor­ity opened Feb. 8 and runs through March 10.

Here’s what hap­pen­ing: As many know, HHS is set­ting up a per­ma­nent pro­gram to se­lect or­ga­ni­za­tions to test and cer­tify elec­tronic health-record sys­tems as ca­pa­ble of meet­ing the mean­ing­ful-use re­quire­ments of the Amer­i­can Re­cov­ery and Rein­vest­ment Act. As part of the per­ma­nent plan, HHS is to se­lect only one in­de­pen­dent body to ac­credit those test­ing and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion or­ga­ni­za­tions.

In a pro­posed rule cov­er­ing these en­deav­ors, HHS’ plan called for its Of­fice of the Na­tional Co­or­di­na­tor for Health In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy to re­view ap­pli­ca­tions from or­ga­ni­za­tions want­ing to be­come the above-men­tioned “ONC-ap­proved ac­cred­i­tor.” It then was to re­view those ap­pli­ca­tions in the or­der they were re­ceived, and then anoint as its ap­proved ac­cred­i­tor the first or­ga­ni­za­tion it deemed to be qual­i­fied.

How­ever, in its fi­nal rule on the se­lec­tion process, HHS said it had been talked out of its orig­i­nal scheme by crit­i­cism of the plan dur­ing the pub­lic com­ment pe­riod.

In­stead, HHS has opted in the fi­nal rule for an open, com­pet­i­tive process, one that “will en­sure the best-qual­i­fied or­ga­ni­za­tion that sub­mits a re­quest is cho­sen as the ONC-AA.”

Seems be­ing first isn’t ev­ery­thing—or the only thing.

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