- Problems with interoperability and health data exchange have driven many physicians to continue to rely on fax machines when sharing patient health information, said CMS Seema Verma at the ONC 2nd Interoperability Forum on August 6.
In a keynote speech, Verma assessed the current state of health IT innovation, EHR adoption, and interoperability nationwide.
“Now, in one sense we have come a long way,” said Verma. “For instance, in 2008, adoption of health IT was limited to 17 percent of doctors and 9 percent of hospitals. Today, 78 percent of doctors and 96 percent of hospitals use certified health IT.”
While health IT use and adoption are more widespread than in years past, EHR workarounds are still common.
“Doctors are faxing patient records, medical staff are manually entering results into EHRs, and hospitals are handing out data on a CD-ROM while the rest of the economy is functioning on fully digitized, integrated data that informs decision-making instantly,” Verma stated.
Existing problems with EHR usability and administrative burden have contributed to reticence among clinicians to use EHR technology to its full potential.
“The federal government spent over $35 billion on the effort to get doctors to use Electronic Health Records,” said Verma. “New technology that is making their work more difficult, not less – causing more physician burden and burnout. Because of it, doctors today are still recording their notes on paper, and they are still faxing patient records.”
To help the healthcare system catch up to other digitized industries, Verma challenged health IT developers to enable a fax-free healthcare system by 2020. Improvements in EHR usability and interoperability will be key to achieving this aim.
“The reality is that once information is freely flowing from the patient to the provider, the advances in coordinated, value-based and patient-centric care will be even greater than anything we can imagine today,” said Verma.
“As the head of CMS, one of my main missions is to break down any and all barriers to interoperability, and create that one-stop shop for health data that will help inform our health care decisions with a complete picture of our medical history,” she continued.
As part the effort to improve the flow of health information between providers and health IT systems, The White House Office of American Innovation launched the MyHealthEData initiative.
“MyHealthEData is more than just patients and doctors getting health care records,” explained Verma. “It’s about driving a new era of digital health, one that will unleash data to trigger innovation, and advance research to cure diseases and provide more evidence-based treatment guidelines that ultimately will drive down costs and improve health outcomes.”
In addition to EHR interoperability, Verma also emphasized the importance of improving interoperability between devices, machines, and other health IT.
“A huge amount of health care information comes to use from devices such as heart monitors and CT scans,” said Verma. “It is vital that those devices share data and be interoperable just as much as we need doctors’ notes and medication lists to be interoperable.”
Verma stated CMS will work to reduce legal and regulatory obstacles to device and EHR interoperability. The federal agency will also continue to push for widespread open application programming interface (API) use and development.
As part of the CMS final rule for the Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) and Long-Term Care Hospital (LTCH) Prospective Payment System, providers will need to use 2015 edition certified EHR technology (CEHRT) by 2019.
“Let me be clear, we will not shrink from this vision or delay its implementation: we are committed to requiring that providers begin using 2015 Edition certified EHR technology starting in 2019 because this version opens APIs,” said Verma.
“By committing to the 2015 Edition of EHR certified technology, we are opening the door to innovators in this room to solve our most confounding challenges,” she added.
CMS is also working to spur advancements in interoperability, health data exchange, and innovation by creating a Chief Health Informatics Officer (CHIO) position at the federal agency.
“The CHIO’s job is to accelerate the pace of innovation in health IT at CMS, and we are excited about filling this position very soon,” said Verma.
These and other efforts are intended to promote advancements in health IT development and health IT use.
“As patients, we demand a health IT system that is as advanced as the medical technology that saves lives,” concluded Verma. “As regulators, policy-makers, developers and IT specialists, it is our charge to make that vision a reality.”