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9 Ways to Improve Health IT Interoperability, Patient Data Access

The Healthcare Leadership Council and the Bipartisan Policy Center detailed 9 strategies for boosting interoperability and patient data access.

HLC and the Bipartisan Policy Center offered 9 ways to improve interoperability.

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- The Healthcare Leadership Council (HLC) and the Bipartisan Policy Center recently issued a report outlining nine ways the public and private sector can work together to advance health IT interoperability and improve patient data access.

Many recommendations included in the report align with newly-released proposed rules from CMS and ONC intended to crack down on information blocking.

The report incorporates feedback from more than 100 clinicians and healthcare leaders from hospitals, health systems, health plans, life sciences organizations, health IT companies, and patients gathered in a year-long effort.

The report aims to streamline the flow of health information across health IT systems and care settings.

“Critical patient information is getting lost in translation when doctors and other clinicians try to share it across health systems or state lines,” said HLC President Mary R. Grealy. “This has detrimental effects on patient care because a clinician may not have the full picture of a patient’s history, or worse, has the wrong history altogether.”

Overall, recommendations in the report center on improving the business care for interoperability, strengthening technical infrastructure to support health data exchange, promoting the use of a common notice of information access across consent policies, and expanding public and private sector collaborative efforts.

“The recommendations in this report are designed to bring better data to the bedside, the exam room, and to patients,” said Bipartisan Policy Center co-founder Tom Daschle.

“Interoperability of systems, information sharing, and data access play a critical role in improving health outcomes, lowering heathcare costs, and improving the patient experience of care, as we move toward new healthcare delivery and payment systems,” continued Daschle.

To improve the business case for interoperability, HLC and the Bipartisan Policy Center recommended payers work with providers to align payment incentives.

“Payers should collaborate with providers to gain agreement on and drive adoption of baseline expectations for interoperability and information sharing through payment incentives that focus on outcomes versus volume, contracts, and other mechanisms,” wrote the organizations.

Next, the organizations suggested providers collaborate with health IT developers to align the incentives of clinicians, hospitals, health systems, and their technology partners.

“Existing requirements, such as those included in the ONC Health IT Certification Program, should be leveraged,” the organizations stated. “Clinical software and other technology developers and vendors should collaborate with their customers to integrate expectations for interoperability within their products.”

HLC and the Bipartisan Policy Center also advised providers, payers, and technology developers to engage individuals and identify their expectations for information access.

To improve technical infrastructure, the organizations recommended stakeholders adopt common baseline standards to improve patient matching.

“Providers, software developers, payers, and organizations representing individuals, should collaborate on efforts to explore, pilot, and evaluate the feasibility of widespread adoption of patient-centered approaches to identification,” wrote the organizations.

Next, report authors suggested ONC prioritize interoperability and standards conformance as part of the Health IT Certification Program.

Lastly, the organizations advised providers, payers, health IT companies, and other healthcare organizations to adopt and implement the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource (FHIR) standard or other open standards-based application programming interfaces (APIs) to optimize infrastructure for health data exchange.

The organizations also offered suggestions to improve existing policies and regulations in support of interoperability.

Implementing a common notice of information access for patients may help to reduce confusion and enable patients to more easily access their information.

Additionally, aligning privacy laws with HIPAA will help to simplify consent policies for patients with needs related to substance use disorder treatment.

Finally, HLC and the Bipartisan Policy Center recommended public and private sector leaders collaborate on the identification and annual reporting of measures that assess national progress on interoperability and information sharing.

“They should convene efforts to define and launch the execution of private sector actions that will accelerate progress on measures,” wrote the organizations.

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