We are in the first 100 days of the Biden Administration, and with a new administration often comes new approaches, policies, and public figures across sectors of government. With interoperability as an essential component of modern healthcare, I want to share what I feel the new administration is signaling for the future of interoperability.
The good news is that, based on previous statements, the President indicates that he supports interoperability initiatives, stating in 2018 that healthcare organizations “should be required to provide patients with their full medical record in electronic form within 24 hours of a request, and those providers who do not comply should be held accountable by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for data-blocking as outlined in the 21st Century Cures Act.” He also goes on to say in the same article by Healthcare IT News that he feels the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation should one day develop a uniform patient data portal that could be accessed by any provider the patient sees on their care journey. Fast forward to 2021, and it seems there is no indication that the administration will change its stance.
Most indicative that the new administration agrees with expanding interoperability are its selections for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) positions. Both are known to be strong advocates for interoperability, indicating that momentum on this will continue and that, hopefully, they will carry on federal efforts to remove interoperability roadblocks further.
A Recap of the ONC 21st Century Cures Act Final Rule
In one of my prior blog posts, we discussed the most recent Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health IT’s 21st Century Cures Act Final Rule that was released in March of 2020, almost one year ago at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This final rule emphasized the importance of secure data exchange and electronic health information (EHI) sharing, with new information blocking provisions. The deterring of information blocking moving forward was one of the most important concepts to come out of the final rule. The final rule outlined the eight exceptions, either involving or not involving fulfilling requests to access, exchange or use EHI. Those that do not include preventing harm, privacy, security, infeasibility, and health IT performance, and those that do are licensing, fees, and content and manner. We also discussed the Cures Act’s goal of adopting standardized application programming interfaces (APIs) to promote communication and data exchange between multiple systems. We at Lightbeam encourage all actors that fall under these provisions to review and implement them.
Interoperability and COVID-19
In an article for Diagnostic Imaging, Matthew A. Michela discussed the ONC’s release of a draft of Version Two of U.S. Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI) in January of 2021, which is currently accepting public comments until April 15th of this year. Michela states that “While there have been compliance delays in recognition of the need to focus all resources on managing the pandemic, ONC is carefully expanding requirements so as not to stall efforts completely to increase access to critical clinical data.”
The pandemic has been the focus of public health for about a year. The need for interoperability, while not new, has proved increasingly evident during this time to promote EHI sharing, increase care coordination, and enhance efficiency. Interoperability comes in many forms, whether telemedicine, remote patient monitoring, or a health information exchange (HIE). Of its most basic benefits, interoperability eliminates the need for faxing papers and other outdated data-sharing methods to determine a patient’s test results, medical history, or additional information. Interoperability is especially key in monitoring COVID-19 results, coordinating care for the COVID “long haulers,” or people with lasting effects from COVID, and further vaccine monitoring.
For more information on Lightbeam’s interoperability solutions, like the Lightbeam Health Information Exchange, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I also encourage you to read our latest Patient Impact Story, detailing how, through the use of HIE, the Clinical Integration Connection (CIC) was able to correctly diagnose a patient with ongoing chest pain’s history of cardiovascular needs and point them to specialist care. For this and more thought leadership pieces on interoperability and Health Information Exchange, visit the Lightbeam Education Center and The Beacon.
Carrie Roth is the Manager of HIE Implementations at Lightbeam.