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New Sequoia Project Workgroup Zeroes In On Information Blocking

A new workgroup part of the Sequoia Project’s Interoperability Matters cooperative will target problems with information blocking.

The Sequoia Project is convening a workgroup to address information blocking.

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- The Sequoia Project has launched a new workgroup as part of its Interoperability Matters cooperative centered on addressing longstanding issues with information blocking.

The workgroup comprises public and private stakeholders focused on discussing, evaluating, and commenting on the proposed information blockings published by ONC.

“We’ve seen a seismic shift towards greater interoperability in the past three years,” said Sequoia Project CEO Mariann Yeager. “True, meaningful interoperability is expanding and hospitals and health systems across the country are beginning to share health records at an unprecedented level.”

“But we can’t declare victory yet considering there are still barriers, including the practices that are perceived to impede information sharing,” Yeager continued. “We’ve reached a tipping point where discussions of interoperability – and the remaining interoperability challenges – are now mainstream and everyone wants a seat at the table. We’re happy to make room for more voices.”

The Sequoia Project launched its Interoperability Matters cooperative in October 2018. The cooperative is working to advance real-world solutions to improve interoperability across the industry.

As part of the initiative, the Interoperability Matters Advisory Group identifies areas where nationwide health data exchange could improve and strategies for boosting interoperability. Subject matter experts and healthcare stakeholders across the private sector and government form Interoperability Matters workgroups.

The Advisory Group will review the recommendations generated by the workgroups and provide feedback. Each workgroup will inform the Advisory Group of its progress through regular, virtual updates to gain consensus on recommendations.

This winter, hundreds of healthcare industry stakeholders have volunteered to contribute their expertise to the Interoperability Matters cooperative.

The first Interoperability Matters event was held in February. Currently, registration is open for a free, public Interoperability Matters launch event being held on March 14.

The public forum will provide an overview of the recently proposed information blocking policies and regulations from ONC and CMS and give stakeholders an opportunity to submit input to inform the work of the Sequoia Project’s information blocking workgroup.

The Sequoia Project anticipates holding additional forum meetings as the workgroup finalizes points of comment for ONC and CMS.

Members of the information blocking workgroup will meet on a regular basis to identify cross-community perspectives on policy, technical, and business issues related to the federal agencies’ proposed information blocking policies.

Sequoia Project staff members and healthcare industry experts Steve Gravely and Mark Segal, PhD will discuss the practical implications of health data exchange practices. Steve Gravely is the founder of Gravely Group, and Mark Segal is Principal of Digital Health Policy Advisors.

The group will also share real-world perspectives related to information blocking and discuss the potential unintended consequences of the proposed rules. Ultimately, the group may develop resources and plans of action for healthcare industry stakeholders to implement in an effort to minimize information blocking.

The cooperative will continue to convene experts from across the health IT community for future workgroups.

Industry groups including EHRA are currently drafting comments on the proposed CMS and ONC rules on interoperability and information blocking.

EHRA has requested CMS and ONC extend the comment period for the proposed rules by an additional 30 days to give stakeholders ample time to review the substantive documents.

“If additional time is allowed, it would enable EHR developers to survey EHR Association members in order to provide ONC with actual development timelines for the measures being proposed,” wrote EHRA.

“While some measures may be straightforward to achieve in a short timeline, others are likely to require more complex coding and implementation, thus calling into question the feasibility of the proposed 24-month development, testing and implementation timeline,” the association continued.

EHRA proposed the comment period close on June 3, 2019.

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