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Tracking Progress of 5 Major EHR Interoperability Initiatives

Through various different initiatives, EHR interoperability is taking off across the healthcare industry.

By Sara Heath

- As the industry pushes toward better EHR interoperability, several different projects have emerged. Between privately-funded projects aimed at increasing data exchange and government initiatives using interoperability to achieve a larger end, interoperability has been thrust into the limelight of health IT innovation.

EHR interoperability

EHRIntelligence.com has put together a round-up of some of the most notable health IT interoperability initiatives, providing background on the progress of those initiatives.

Carequality

Since the start of 2016, Carequality has been busy adding framework members in several major EHR vendors including athenahealth, eClinicalWorks, Epic Systems, NextGen Healthcare, and Surescripts.

This framework, announced back in December, will put legal terms, policy requirements, technical specifications, and governance processes. This will make data sharing less costly because each vendor will have one set of legal and governance policies to work with, rather than determining individual agreements amongst each other.

“The adoption of the Carequality Framework represents a major leap forward for nationwide interoperability,” explained Dave Cassel, director of Carequality, in a statement. “By these organizations committing to unified Rules of the Road, they are simplifying system-to-system connections to make data exchange easier for a significant portion of the healthcare ecosystem.”

CommonWell

CommonWell likewise is adding more and more vendors to its health data sharing network, although they are still lacking EHR giant Epic Systems.

As of the middle of January, CommonWell had added McKesson to its services. Other notable alliance participants include Cerner Corporation and Greenway Health, both of which signed onto CommonWell’s services last November.

21st Century Cures Act

The 21st Century Cures Act, a major piece of legislation aimed at streamlining the pharmaceutical process by adding more funding to the National Institute of Health and the FDA, has most recently passed through the House of Representatives in a 344 to 77 vote.

The bill, which is circulating the Senate, includes several provisions that would improve the nation’s efforts toward improving precision medicine by bolstering clinical trials and big data analytics systems. It would also streamline drug approvals, create a council for the 21st Century Cures, expand access to breakthrough drugs, and address health IT interoperability.

The bill’s interoperability policies provide funding to the NIH to create a set of national standards for health IT.

Precision Medicine

An array of different projects, both private- and government-funded, are gathering their efforts toward increasing precision medicine.

Several different startups, many of which are housed at the American Medical Association’s (AMA’s) Innovation Center in Chicago, are working toward improving health IT interoperability, many in the name of precision medicine.

The FDA likewise is working toward eradicating interoperability challenges in order to facilitate precision medicine. Last August, the agency announced crowd-sourcing efforts to help carry out the President’s vision for precision medicine.

IMPACT Act

The Improving Medicare Post-Acute Care Transformation (IMPACT) Act, an initiative out of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, requires standardized patient assessment data for quality measures and resource use.

However, as of last summer, this act did little to facilitate interoperability amongst providers, a call the American Hospital Association made in a comments letter back in June. Lack of clarity about standardization and interoperability is cause for concern considering the fact that CMS is calling for standardized measures in the act.

"The IMPACT Act requires that CMS adopt the same measurement domains for all post-acute care QRPs, and that the measures be 'standardized and interoperable' across post-acute care facilities," wrote AHA’s executive vice president Rick Pollack. "However, the statute does not provide specific operational definitions of these two terms. We believe how CMS interprets these terms will have significant implications for post-acute providers."

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