FTC, ONC put vendors on notice

October 10, 2014 in Medical Technology

The Federal Trade Commission has some news for health IT vendors whose zeal for competitive marketshare outweighs their willingness to share data: they’re watching, and will step in where necessary.

[See also: FTC calls out data brokers on privacy]

“We are working with ONC staff to identify potential competition issues relating to health IT platforms and standards, market concentration, conduct by market participants, and the ability of health IT purchasers to make informed buying decisions,” wrote FTC officials in a blog post this week.

Healthy competition “is central to improving health care quality and outcomes, reducing costs, and improving the consumer experience,” write Tara Isa Koslov, of FTC’s Office of Policy Planning; Markus Meier, of its Bureau of Competition and David R. Schmidt, of its Bureau of Economics.

[See also: Interoperability: supply and demand]

But as electronic health records and other new health information technology platforms are increasingly deployed by care providers hoping for efficiencies and care coordination, FTC sees “potential threats to competition from high switching costs, data lock-in, misguided standard-setting activities, and other features of health IT systems and platforms.”

The blog post reminds vendors that “FTC is well-positioned to monitor competition in today’s burgeoning health IT marketplace – relying on our combined expertise in health care, technology, and health-related privacy and data security issues.”

Specifically, FTC points to ongoing work with ONC staff to “identify potential competition issues relating to health IT platforms and standards, market concentration, conduct by market participants, and the ability of health IT purchasers to make informed buying decisions.”

Together, the two agencies, “will continue to pay close attention to developments in health IT markets,” FTC officials say.

Meanwhile, in a companion post on HealthIT.gov, ONC officials note that while there are “plenty of reasons to be encouraged about ways that competition is working to deliver interoperable systems and services,” there’s also ample evidence that “health IT markets are not functioning as efficiently as they could be.”

Jodi G. Daniel, director of ONC’s Office of Policy, and policy analyst Karson Mahler say there are too many areas where bad business practices are hindering care improvement.

Top of the list? Too much opacity when it comes to comparing the effectiveness of health IT products, and too little “accurate and complete information about costs and limitations.” Without those critical tools, providers are stymied from making informed choices among an enormous array of competitive products.

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Article source: http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/ftc-onc-put-vendors-notice

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