It is difficult to choose sides when it comes to health IT standardization. Both sides make valid arguments in support of their claims. With the healthcare industry undergoing a major overhaul, it is imperative to have a sense of direction. However, it is also important to consider the impact on the infant health IT industry. Although EMR technology is progressive, it is still relatively new and far from the end product. Imposing directives in the development stage can influence the design as well as restrict growth and innovation. Most providers are concerned that an increase in regulations would only delay response times by adding unnecessary layers for various procedures. An increase in compliance standards is also likely to limit the usefulness of electronic health data.

The government though may argue otherwise. While electronic medical records have been around for some time now, government backing has really helped health IT catch its stride. The meaningful use incentive plan along with its certification criteria has indentified a basic structure for EMR vendors while highlighting the key areas for progression. Federal entities such as the ONC are working closely with providers and third party research groups to shore up weaknesses and remove impediments in EMR adoption. ONC is tasked with the coordination of nationwide efforts towards the development and advancement of health IT. Farzad Mostashari, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology believes that despite the confusion surrounding meaningful use, there is meaning to the program. Most providers are concerned with the objective based incentive program, often citing it as a distraction and impediment towards growth.

However, some experts argue that without the structure of meaningful use and certification criteria, no one would be considering health information exchange (HIE) and EMR interoperability. “Standardization is necessary to some extent as without a structural format there can be no cohesion between different organizations”, shared Keith Smith, a health IT consultant. Keith explains that the lack of standardized exchange and format issues would plague the healthcare sector, thereby causing more frustrations and delays. He also talks about concerns such as data security and integrity. “There are standards and regulations because healthcare professionals are accountable for patient care and safety which includes protection of health information.”

With ONC set on promoting standard based health information exchange, this could be a huge year for health IT. Keith believes that such regulations would help speed up the process in an already sluggish industry. “We leave this up to providers and vendors and we might still be using free drafting electronic medical records.”