Many years ago, when I was a staff assistant at the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs, we held a day-long conference at the Pentagon to expose local communities to “Life after Base Realignment and Closure.” The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) was 3+ years old at the time, and the Pentagon was given a waiver and did not have to provide access to wheelchair users at all entrances of the largest federal office building in the world.
Needless to say, a City Manager from central Florida had to be escorted out one door, walked one-half mile around the perimeter of the building, and connected to his ride due to the building’s minimal accessible entrances. Truly a memorable event on the barriers facing people with disabilities!
What does that have to do with meaningful use and health IT?
According to public discussion at recent Health IT Policy Committee meetings, accessibility is gaining momentum on the road to becoming a requirement for meaningful use Stage 2. Like usability of Electronic Health Records – the intuitive processes for maneuvering EHRs – accessibility of health IT is a term used to describe “design criteria which remove barriers that make it difficult or impossible for some people with disabilities to use health IT.” For those of you who work for or around the federal government, this is known as a Section 508 Compliance issue – making sure an individual can identify and operate information on a federal initiative.
Where you come in!
The United States Access Board – the cross-agency coordinating body that was established in 1973 – is in the process of updating regulations associated with Title II and III of the ADA. As part of the process, the Access Board has released an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule Making, and is seeking public comment on whether hospitals and healthcare providers should be required to (among other things) make their websites and other health IT solutions accessible to all individuals (medical and radiological diagnostic equipment, electronic and information technology equipment, kiosks, etc.). The Access Board asks 20 questions in hopes of gathering more real-world understanding of acquisition and requisition practices in the healthcare setting.
So, what do you think?
- In this time of regulatory turbulence, can the healthcare community afford to add more requirements to the burgeoning perfect storm of health IT?
- How do we find the balance between improving accessibility without creating an undue burden on the healthcare community?
- What topics should HIMSS consider highlighting for our public response?
- How should this fit in to meaningful use Stage 2?
Comments are due by late January, but we’d love to hear from you now!