On April 7, 2014, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in consultation with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a draft report addressing a proposed strategy and recommendations on an “appropriate, risk-based regulatory framework pertaining to health information technology.”

This report, entitled “FDASIA Health IT Report: Proposed Strategy and Recommendations for a Risk-Based Framework”, was mandated by Section 618 of the Food and Drug Administration and Innovation Act, and establishes a proposed blueprint for the regulation of health IT.  The FDA, ONC and FCC (the Agencies) noted that risk and controls on such risk should focus on health IT functionality, and proposed a flexible system for categorizing health IT and evaluating the risks and need for regulation for each category.

The Agencies set out four key priority areas: (1) promote the use of quality management principles, (2) identify, develop, and adopt standards and best practices, (3) leverage conformity assessment tools, and (4) create an environment of learning and continual improvement.

The Agencies are seeking public comment on the specific principles, standards, practices, and tools that would be appropriate as part of this regulatory framework.  In addition, the Agencies propose establishing a new Health IT Safety Center that would allow reporting of health IT-related safety events that could then be disseminated to the health IT community.

The Agencies also divided health IT into three broad functionality-based groups: (1) administrative, (2) health management, and (3) medical device. The Agencies noted that health IT with administrative functionality, such as admissions, billing and claims processing, scheduling, and population health management pose limited or no risk to the patient, and as a result no additional oversight is proposed.

Health IT with health management functionality, such as health information and data exchange, data capture and encounter documentation, provider order entry, clinical decision support, and medication management, would be subject the regulatory framework proposed in the report.  In addition, the FDA stated that a product with health management functionality that meets the statutory definition of a medical device would not be subject to additional oversight by the FDA.

The report had a spotlight on clinical decision support (CDS), which provides health care providers and patients with knowledge and person-specific information, intelligently filtered or presented at appropriate times, to enhance health and health care.  The report concluded that, for the most part, CDS does not replace clinicians’ judgment, but rather assists clinicians in making timely, informed, higher quality decisions.  These functionalities are categorized as health management IT, and the report believes most CDS falls into this category.

However, certain CDS software – those that are medical devices and present higher risks – warrant the FDA’s continued focus and oversight.  Medical device CDS includes computer aided detection/diagnostic software, remote display or notification of real-time alarms from bedside monitors, radiation treatment planning, robotic surgical planning and control, and electrocardiography analytical software.

The FDA intends to focus its oversight on health IT with medical device functionality, such as described above with respect to medical device CDS.  The Agencies believe that this type of functionality poses the greatest risk to patient safety, and therefore would be the subject of FDA oversight.  The report recommends that the FDA provide greater clarity related to medical device regulation involving health IT, including: (1) the distinction between wellness and disease-related claims, (2) medical device accessories, (3) medical device CDS software, (4) medical device software modules, and (5) mobile medical apps.

The comment period remains open through July 7, 2014, and therefore the report’s recommendations may change based on comments received by the Agencies. In the meantime, companies in the clinical software and mobile medical apps industry should follow the final guidance recently published by the FDA with respect to regulation of their products.

In the meantime, health information technology companies should follow the final guidance recently published by the FDA with respect to regulation of their products. For any questions or more information on these or any related matters, please contact Stephanie Zeppa at (650) 815-2646 or szeppa@sheppardmullin.com.