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ONC to Congress: Get moving on interoperability

Although EHR use is up, more work needs to be done on interoperability.

The Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology (ONC)  has submitted a report to Congress on the perennial issue  of furthering  interoperability in healthcare.

ONC urged both the public and private sectors to work together to drive interoperability and make sure electronic health information is able to flow seamlessly through easy-to-use technology systems that present actionable information at the point of care.

ONC recommended three key actions in the report:

Common standards

ONC said it has already taken action on this front by publishing the Interoperability Standards Advisory, a single resource that lists federally recognized and national interoperability standards and guidance.

ONC said it has also launched a three-part strategy to help connect and accelerate a FHIR (Fast Health Interoperability Resources) ecosystem to spur the development of software apps for consumers and healthcare providers

“The strategy seeks to leverage the growing interest in an industry-wide approach to open, standardized APIs,” ONC said in the report.

This strategy’s goals are, ONC said:

  1. Help consumers get and use their data
  2. Improve user-experience and utility for individuals and clinicians
  3. Coordinate open information with EHR app solutions.

Build a business case for interoperability

ONC said in the report that the shift from fee for service to value-based care is key to building a business case and providing incentives that will drive demand for interoperability. ONC added that while Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs are often the primary motivator for the adoption of EHR technology, those programs alone are not enough to overcome barriers to interoperability.

In this arena, these steps are imperative, ONC said:

  • Shift to value-based care
  • Support healthcare providers in using health IT
  • Medicaid—a government healthcare program for Americans of all ages– funding to advance the flow of electronic health information

Provide more access to health information

ONC suggests in the report that changing the culture around access to information can be done by:

  • Supporting the rights of patients to obtain and control their data
  • Expose and discourage information blocking
  • Promote transparency and competition
  • Enhance the safety, reliability and accountability of certified health IT