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ONC health IT report: EHR use up, but work remains

The 2016 annual report from Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology found that the use of EHR technology has dramatically increased in the past eight years. The report stated that 96% of hospitals and 78% of physician offices used certified EHRs in 2015. This is a significant increase from 2008; prior to the passage of the HITECH ACT, only 9% of hospitals and 17% used at least a basic EHR.

The annual report also noted that the evolution of health IT since the passage of the HITECH Act includes the improvement of communication among health care providers and an increase in the sharing of electronic health information with patients and caregivers.

The report also states that the HIPAA Privacy Rule allows patients to have more control over decisions about their health; in 2015, 95% of hospitals provided patients with the ability to view their health information electronically. When patients have access to their health information, they are able to be more involved in the care process.

While there has been progress as far as EHR use, ONC states in its report that there is still work to be done as far as establishing interoperability between health systems. This work includes publishing the Interoperability Standards Advisory and completing the 2015 Edition final rule. In addition to improving interoperability, the final rule seeks to improve patient safety and reduce health disparities.

ONC also wrote that it requested the establishment of a Health IT Safety Collaborative, which would enforce evidence-based and targeted approaches to health IT. The report also requested authorities to combat information blocking and establish “rules of the road” for electronic health information exchange. Examples of information blocking include inappropriately citing HIPAA regulations as a reason not to share information and implementing contractual terms or restrictions that interfere with patients’ access to their health information.

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