Interoperability requirement is the focus of HHS conference

September 9, 2019

The 21st Century Cures Act passed by Congress in late 2016 included a provision meant to ensure a patient’s access to information about their medical history or treatment. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) are tasked with implementing the provision.

The act defines interoperability as “the secure exchange of electronic health information with, and use of electronic health information from, other health information technology without special effort on the part of the user.”

Michele Lauria, MD, MS, FACOG, ambulatory medical information officer for the GLIMR project, was invited to the ONC’s Third Interoperability Forum in Washington, D.C. in August to speak on a panel and provide public comment on a recent ONC report titled, “Strategy on Reducing Regulatory and Administrative Burden Relating to the Use of Health IT and EHRs.” The report and public commentary are required by the 21st Century Care Act.

“I spoke at the panel on burden reduction and was part of a listening session on prior authorization, where I discussed a patient-centered perspective,” said Dr. Lauria. “The conference was fantastic.”

The theme of her talk was unintended consequences, particularly those having to do with outside health information reconciliation as required by the legislation. “While interoperability and sharing of patient data have tremendous potential to improve communication surrounding patient care, it also means that we will be sharing on a national stage each other’s large and often messy problem lists,” she said.

“The requirement will force care teams to work together in new ways,” said Dr. Lauria “For complicated patients who receive substantial amounts of health care across multiple healthcare systems, intraoperative ability has the potential to significantly increase visit time, especially if the problem list and medication lists are poorly maintained. Time spent in outside record reconciliation may distract the care team from more vital patient care activities.”

Dr. Lauria also participated in a focus group of national payors, EMR vendors and IT leaders on the burden of prior authorizations and how a national framework with standardized requirements could help relieve that burden, resulting in improved patient care.