Elizabeth Westbrook, Government Relations Advisor, weighs in with her thoughts about the Department of Health and Human Services' year-end report, which summarizes nationwide trends in health information exchange in 2018. Electronic Health Reporter's article, "What the Hell Is Going On With Healthcare Interoperability?," tackles what it calls the most interesting takeaway - healthcare interoperability.
A pair of proposed rules released by CMS and ONC last week is a grab bag of interoperability-related policy recommendations. To the Administration’s credit, these wide-reaching would-be regulations demonstrate a real commitment to advancing interoperability and improving health IT for patients, but the assortment of proposals feel a bit like throwing everything against a wall to see what sticks; moreover, some proposals seem half-baked. There is widespread support for the rules’ provisions to crack down on information-blockers by naming and shaming bad actors. Information-blocking has been recognized as an obstacle to interoperability for some time now but with little done to stop it. These rules would give HHS some teeth in enforcement, while carving out necessary exceptions to protect privacy and health information exchange. I think CMS is jumping the gun in rushing to out new FHIR-based standards for EHR certification. There was little notice for what would be a massive undertaking and after years of heavy-lifting to get providers onboard with EHRs under meaningful use, this could be very costly and time-consuming. CMS and ONC are missing an opportunity to better leverage health information exchanges to accomplish some of their interoperability and transparency goals. Better HIE-integration and utilization across the country could accomplish some of the objectives laid out in the proposed rules without being onerous for providers.