- As a part of a federal mandate to improve EHR use, interoperability, and connected care, the Health IT Policy Committee (HITPC) has submitted its December report to Congress explaining barriers and policy suggestions with regard to interoperability.
Overall, the suggestions entailed creating specific interoperability measures for both providers and vendors, increasing and accelerating incentive payments, and creating a collaborative, multi-stakeholder group to develop those initiatives. The report included four specific suggestions:
Develop Health Information Exchange (HIE) Measures
The first policy suggestion the HITPC explained to Congress was the establishment of HIE-sensitive measures which would not only measure the amount of information providers were exchanging amongst one another, but the meaningfulness and impactfulness of that information. In order for providers to receive high scores on these measures, the information exchanged would need to be used meaningfully, as to reflect an important use of the information.
“In order to enhance the strength of incentives that drive interoperability, a set of specific measures should be developed that focus on the delivery of coordinated care, facilitated by shared information across the entire health team (including the individuals and families) and throughout the continuum of care settings,” the HITPC explained. “An example of an HIE-sensitive measure would look at medically unnecessary duplicate testing.”
This new policy could be effective in strengthening incentives by first allowing payers to incorporate these measures into their payment methods, and second by integrating these measures into public reporting that would in turn reveal which providers give the highest level of coordinated care.
Develop Vendor HIE Measures for Certification
Just as providers should be tested against certain HIE-sensitive measures, as should vendors. Such measures could potentially serve as a direct catalyst to improve vendor developments and performances.
Specifically, HITPC is looking for these measures to occur in practical use—not in a lab—and to take into account needs that go beyond certification measures for the EHR Incentive Programs.
“Today, purchasers of EHR systems lack such measures to inform purchasing decisions or to use as a lever to put pressure on vendors to improve,” HITPC confirmed. “Although vendors have strong incentives to pass the interoperability requirements for EHR certification, this process is “one-time” and occurs in a lab. It has not been shown to translate into interoperability that is affordable or easy to implement in the field.”
HITPC also listed a few specific measures that could record vendor HIE performance:
Number of data exchanges from external sources, which could include other providers, community social-service organizations, consumers, payers, etc. (denominator that measures ability to exchange data with another electronic system such as an EHR, HIE or consumer application (app));
Percentage of external data elements viewed (numerator that measures perceived value of the external data);
Percentage of external data elements incorporated/reconciled with internal records (represents meaningful data); and
Percentage of time viewing of external data changed current activity (e.g., appeared in clinical decision support, led to change in order being written), which demonstrates impact of external data.
Accelerate Incentive Payments for Interoperability
HITPC maintained that in order for providers and vendors to make interoperability progress, they must have adequate incentive payments. Not providing incentive payments encourages providers to deal with internal needs rather than prioritize interoperability.
Today, the lack of palpable financial incentives for interoperability favors the status quo. Pressing internal priorities compete for attention and resources are needed to achieve interoperability, especially when specific actions to enact interoperability are complex and time-consuming. This results in slow progress. Moving interoperability up the priority list will likely take financial incentives that are more targeted than a broad shift from fee-for-service to pay-for- 17 value. To have the desired effect, the incentives must be strong and specific, with clearly defined measures and a deliberate implementation timeline and effective dates.
Initiate Sustained Multi-Stakeholder Action
In order for the above-mentioned goals to be met, HITPC explained that multiple stakeholder groups will need to take action in the overall interoperability efforts. Several of the policy suggestions, such as creating HIE-sensitive provider measures, require multiple voices for development, and multiple interpretations of the ONC Interoperability Roadmap.
Thus, HITPC suggested creating an interoperability Summit of various industry stakeholders in order to collaborate on interoperability efforts.
The output of the Summit would be an action plan with milestones and assigned accountabilities for achieving the milestones in the context of this larger interoperability initiative. We expect the compelling call-to-action would engage the stakeholders to continue their activities after the Summit as a way of meeting the payer-driven incentives that reward HIE-sensitive measures of coordinated care.
Earlier this year, Congress requested a report from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) which detailed the issues surrounding information blocking. In the report, the ONC both defined information blocking as a practice, and provided examples.
Specifically, ONC defined information blocking as using criteria of interference, knowledge, and lack of justification for refusing to share information.
The information provided in this most recent report from HITPC could potentially put an end to those negative information blocking practices by providing incentives for fostering HIE and interoperability. Between monetary incentives and a clear prescription of HIE measures, both providers and vendors could ideally implement more effective interoperability strategies.